Relief for poor cellular coverage could be coming to Rancho Santa Fe


By Karen Billing

A possible expansion of Rancho Santa Fe’s distributed antenna system (DAS) could improve wireless coverage within the Covenant. Several months ago, AT&T requested that the DAS provider ExteNet map out the biggest holes in coverage and field tests were conducted, according to RSF Association Acting Manager Ivan Holler. The Association plans to meet with ExteNet to discuss potential improvements on Sept. 18.

At the Sept. 4 board meeting, Holler provided the board with some background on how they arrived at the DAS system.

In 2003, the county adopted an ordinance dealing with wireless telecommunication facilities as they were concerned about a proliferation of carriers — the ordinance encouraged cellular facilities to minimize aesthetic impacts in the communities they supported. One component of the ordinance was the development of a wireless community master plan to identify a preferred design or preferred locations for cellular facilities.

The Association crafted its master plan in 2006 and from various options selected the implementation of a DAS. The current DAS consists of a maximum of 53 antenna nodes located on existing utility poles throughout the Covenant. The system was designed to provide coverage along the roadways — which is why some areas away from the roads have weak reception, Holler said.

Presently there are 46 nodes of the maximum 53 located within the Covenant and three carriers are on the DAS: AT&T, Sprint and R-Mobile.

Verizon does not participate in the DAS, although it does have a facility on top of the RSF Fire Station and some just outside the Covenant.

The DAS is provided through a memorandum of understanding with ExteNet and that MOU is in place through 2017. At that time, Holler said the board would have the opportunity to review if the agreement is still appropriate.

Holler said to improve reception, new nodes, either on existing utility poles or new structures. Per the MOU, once the nodes hit the maximum number of 53, ExteNet has to come back before the board for approval of any additional nodes.