AT&T has several methods for connecting customers wirelessly to the network. In San Francisco we are integrating multiple wireless antenna technologies to provide quality, reliable wireless service. These include macrocell, microcell, and distributed antenna system (“DAS”) facilities to provide wireless services, and AT&T is investing in each to expand its wireless infrastructure in San Francisco to create the best wireless experience possible.

The most common type of wireless facility is frequently referred to as a “macro cell”, or simply a “macro”.  Macro cells form the core of wireless networks, enabling wireless service providers to deliver voice, text and broadband communications.  Macro cells have been constructed in many different sizes, configurations and heights.  Some macro cells may incorporate “stealthing” to hide the antennas from normal view or be camouflaged as trees or other structures to blend in with the surrounding area.  Macro cells are effective for covering large geographic areas, especially in rural situations, with relatively high capacity, and do so because the antennas transmit radiofrequency (RF) signals at higher power levels than smaller cell architectures, such as metro cells, micro cells or pico cells do.  A macro wireless antenna structure is also typically capable of hosting multiple wireless service providers.

In urban areas, macro cells are often placed on existing structures, such as building rooftops or water towers.   Although not in all cases, macro cells are generally on structures over 30 feet in height and placed at locations with higher ground elevation, utilizing a set of larger panel antennas to achieve this broader geographic reach.  Based on their reach, macro cells provide the most effective coverage for a wireless network with the fewest number of sites.

Microcells are generally located on lower poles or structures and designed to provide localized service through smaller-paneled antennas. They can be used to serve canyons or valleys and urban street blocks where taller antenna structures are unavailable.

An alternative antenna deployment design is the distributed antenna system, or DAS. By deploying an array of synchronized antennas, a DAS provides a web of coverage over specific target areas where it is not possible to construct larger macro cells. Read more about DAS >

In addition to these wireless antenna systems that provide voice and data service, AT&T is also creating a Wi-Fi Hot Zone in downtown San Francisco to provide high speed Internet access that does not count against AT&T mobile data plan. Read more about Wi-Fi >


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