AT&T activates two new mobile towers on Hilton Head

tbarton@islandpacket.comOctober 28, 2013 

A rendering of the proposed cell tower in Hilton Head Plantation.

AT&T has activated two new cell sites on Hilton Head Island to enhance coverage and meet demand for mobile devices and services, the company announced Monday.

The new cell sites -- on Wild Horse Lane on the north end and on Hotel Circle in Palmetto Dunes -- are part of AT&T's ongoing efforts to extend its mobile Internet network, according to a company news release.

Customers in those areas should receive better service, including faster mobile-data speeds and stronger voice coverage, AT&T spokeswoman Ann Elsas said.

After years of complaints about dropped calls and poor service, wireless carriers and cell-tower companies have spent much of the past two years installing equipment to improve coverage.

AT&T invested more than $800 million in its South Carolina wireless and wireline networks from 2010 to 2012, with a focus on expanding its 4G Long Term Evolution network for mobile Internet coverage, according to the release.

"AT&T's continued investment in Hilton Head will only enhance the island's strong reputation as a great place for business, travel, tourism and family time," state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said in the release.

Verizon Wireless expanded its 4G coverage to Hardeeville and areas along Interstate 95 to the Georgia state line in March 2012. The carrier launched its high-speed network on Hilton Head Island in April 2011, and its coverage has since spread to the Bluffton, Daufuskie Island and Sun City areas.

Also, the Town of Hilton Head Island on Wednesday approved a minor change to Hilton Head Plantation's land-use plans to allow a 149-foot cell tower inside the gated community, despite protests from some surrounding homeowners.

The tower would be disguised as a pine tree, built between White Tail Deer Lane and Dolphin Head Drive, and serve Verizon customers. Three other carriers could be added later, and AT&T has expressed interest in being one of them, plantation general manager Peter Kristian said. Construction would likely begin this winter and be completed early next year, according to Kristian.

Strengthening wireless coverage became a top priority of the town in 2011. The island's tree canopy and town rules on where and how towers can be built have contributed to spotty coverage, according to wireless carriers and industry experts.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

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