A Colorado-based company is asking the borough to lease a site to build Haines’ first 5G cell tower, which could dramatically improve download speeds for mobile devices. 

AT&T’s cell tower at the top of Mount Ripinsky. (Lex Treinen/Chilkat Valley News)

Atlas Tower 1 submitted a request Jan. 19 to build a 120-foot tower on a plot near 1 Mile Lutak Road and proposed a $400-per-month lease fee, plus $25,000 for the duration of the lease. Borough planner Andrew Conrad said because the property is zoned residential, the tower couldn’t be built on the proposed site. 

“We’re trying to find a good location to put it, and we’re at the beginning stages of it,” said Atlas Towner Manager Sandra Layton.

The company could have the tower built within 12 months of approval, according to its application. But Conrad said there are numerous hoops the company would have to jump through if it is serious about building a tower. 

Realistically if they were serious about this, they would be engaging the borough,” said Conrad, who said he was waiting for the company’s response to see how serious its effort was.

5G technology was first deployed around 2019, and promises speeds up to 100 times faster than the current 4G technology used in most areas. 

AT&T’s current tower is above Haines on a shoulder of Mount Ripinsky. The tower had to be repaired at least once last summer with a crew flown up in a helicopter. Among the code requirements, Conrad said, is one that requires the applicant prove that it cannot co-locate the tower with existing towers. 

The assembly would also have to vote to redesignate the parcel as ‘available for lease,’ and the company would have to go through a public noticing and hearing requirement for permits. 

“It’s a pretty lengthy process,” said Conrad. 

Some people are opposed to 5G technology because of health or security concerns. Towers built by the Chinese company Huawei were banned in the U.S.and several other countries because of national security concerns. Some fear the technology could have yet-unknown adverse health impacts. Major health organizations have concluded that 5G doesn’t pose any health risks. 

5G transmissions can also affect weather forecasting, since satellites can misinterpret certain frequencies as water vapors, according to a study in the journal Nature.