OCONOMOWOC — The next step in
connectivity will be coming to Oconomowoc and Waukesha in early 2020
when a 5G network is installed, U.S. Cellular announced Wednesday.
Cellular said its initial 5G deployment will be on its 600 MHz
spectrum and will offer faster data speeds, “a more responsive
mobile experience and the ability to connect more devices to the
network at the same time.” The ability to offer a 5G network is part
of U.S. Cellular’s multi-year network expansion which is a result of
previous network technology investments to modernize equipment and
The first areas to be able to access U.S. Cellular’s 5G network are
in Wisconsin and Iowa, with Oconomowoc and Waukesha being the first
local communities to gain the access.
“Wisconsin and Iowa are two of our largest markets and we’re excited
to introduce 5G technology to customers in both urban and rural
communities where other carriers have not,” said Michael S.
Irizarry, executive vice president and chief technology officer of
U.S. Cellular, in a statement.
“Broader 5G coverage will provide our customers with even faster data
connection speeds for a better experience when they do the things
they love on their devices.”
U.S. Cellular will begin turning on its 5G network in larger
Wisconsin communities including parts of Green Bay, Madison,
Milwaukee, Oshkosh and Racine with plans for 115 additional cities
Customers in Wisconsin, Iowa and additional markets in the company’s
footprint will be notified when 5G is available via local
advertising and targeted marketing in 2020, according to the
Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said being able to offer 5G network
service in Waukesha will be a benefit for businesses, especially
those who rely heavily on technology. And as a result, businesses
that need 5G will be more likely to locate in Waukesha.
Reilly said he is aware that there has been some discussion between
service providers and the Waukesha Public Works Department, but
there has been no formal proposal.
He said if antennas or other equipment would need to be placed on
city infrastructure, “it would need approval of the city and would
need to be done in a reasonable and rational way that protects our
While 5G has been a topic of conversation for a few years,
infrastructure has proven to be a big hurdle.
The Wall Street Journal reported that 5G waves aren’t able to travel
very far on their own. While 4G towers can deliver service for up to
10 miles, true high-bandwidth 5G towers can only deliver service up
to 1,000 feet, according to WSJ.
In its Wednesday announcement, U.S. Cellular said those living in
areas with 4G devices will see a change in network quality as cell
towers are updated with new technology.
Already, U.S. Cellular has begun to replace the base stations with
software-upgradable basebands, meaning new 5G features can be
incorporated by adding new software rather than from a hardware
replacement. It also involves moving the radios up the tower, which
improves coverage in rural communities.
“We are rapidly moving across our footprint to bring 5G to as many
of our customers as possible over the coming years. We expect to
augment the network with mid-and-high-band spectrum over time as the
technology and use cases continue to evolve,” Irizarry said.
Health and safety concerns
As more cellphone towers have been built in Waukesha County
communities in the past decade, residents have raised concerns about
possible health effects from radiation that they say could cause
cancer, as well as possible internet intrusion into individuals’
During an Oconomowoc Common Council meeting in June during which
residents raised safety concerns, City Attorney Stan Riffle advised
the citizens and the council that according to state law, the city
cannot reject a conditional use permit application for a cellular
tower based on the frequency proposed to be transmitted from the
Riffle explained that if a proposed tower met all of the
requirements and conditions of a conditional use permit as defined
by the city’s zoning code, the plan commission and council have no
choice but to approve the permit.
Reilly said Wednesday that federal legislation has limited
municipalities’ control over the placement of cell towers.