People across the country may soon have access to the next generation of internet, 5G, but customers may be surprised to see 5G infrastructure popping up unannounced in their front yards.
Verizon Communications officially rolled out its 5G service in April of 2019 in a limited capacity to only Chicago and Minneapolis. Since then, the service has been gradually expanding across the country.
5G is the fifth generation mobile network designed to deliver higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability, and a more consistent experience to more users.
The more expansive network requires new hardware, known as “ground fixtures,” to be installed. The ground fixtures supply power and data to 5G antennas placed on utility poles nearby. The box is a beige metal cabinet roughly the size of a freezer chest with an electrical meter affixed.
While these ground fixtures are necessary for the expansion of 5G, they have been popping up unannounced in people’s yards and causing a bit of a stir.
The Houston Chronicle first reported the annoying presence of the hardware back in 2019. The newspaper interviewed a Houston couple, Dirk Wijnands and Adeline Pang, who said they did not pay much attention to the 5G revolution until Verizon workers installed a ground fixture in their front yard.
Norman Ewart, a retired lawyer who lives in the Rice Memorial area in Texas, told the newspaper one of the boxes was placed outside his front gate. Ewart complained to Verizon about the ground fixture, but the box remains in place.
“It hasn’t been turned on yet, it’s just sitting there. I want it gone. It’s ugly, and it devalues my property,” Ewart said.
The presence of the boxes is a significant inconvenience to homeowners. Still, the unfortunate reality is that Verizon is under no obligation to receive permission from homeowners before installing the fixtures. Technically, the company does not even have to notify the homeowners that the installation will happen. This is because the boxes and the utility poles that go along with them are installed on the “right-of-way,” which is land owned by the county, not the homeowner.
Purchasing the permits to install the ground fixtures is also relatively cheap for Verizon and other telecom companies. In Texas, a permit’s cost is only $300, which is a considerable decrease from the $2,700 they were previously.
Despite the low cost of permits, the amount of money spent on developing 5G technology is significant. The CTIA, the wireless telecommunications industry’s trade group, estimates the 5G buildout in just the United States will cost $275 billion. Other estimates put the cost of the technology as high as $300 billion. That number does not include the money spent to acquire part of the spectrum. It was reported that telecom companies recently bid almost $81 billion for a portion of the spectrum known as C-Band in auctions run by the Federal Communications Commission.
5G is currently only available in a limited capacity, which means the problem with the ground fixtures is only affecting a smaller number of communities. However, as 5G continues to grow, so too will the number of homeowners who have problems with the obnoxious metal freezer boxes in their front yard.