SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – If you have taken a drive up American Fork Canyon lately you may have wondered what the poles right next to the road about every mile or so are. They are 5G cell phone towers and are set to be activated come springtime of next year.
Although the project has been in the works for a few years now, people are starting to talk about the new ‘nodes’ that have been installed along the roadway just last month and are wondering what they are since they are so visible to drivers.
But, come next year people will begin to experience the benefit of cell phone service provided by the 26 nodes spread throughout the canyon. The people who will probably enjoy this new feature the most though will be first responders and other crews who respond to emergency situations in the area.
“American Fork Canyon averages somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 to 3 million visitors a year, that is a lot of people and with that many people there is no question that you are going to have things happen where you are going to have to have an emergency response,” says Sargent Spencer Cannon with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.
Cannon says, “I don’t think they are doing this just so people have the convenience to surf the internet while they are on a hike or things like that. It is for emergency response purposes primarily.”
The installation of the new 5G cell phone towers are a collaborative effort from several groups and will be a ‘real bonus’ for responders. Cannon says these groups and first responders have seen the need for increased communication in the canyon for many years–even decades.
Cannon says that these new cell phone towers will eliminate 30-40 minutes in response time to emergency situations, and when responding to events that are sometimes life or death–every minute counts.
American Fork Canyon has always been ‘notoriously difficult’ to communicate in.
“There are a few pockets here and there where you can get service but it is spotty,” says Cannon. “It has always been spotty at best. To say there is service up there…there essentially isn’t. If you ever do get a signal, it’s just by dumb luck that you do.”
The new cell phone coverage is said to cover well into the canyon. Coverage will extend from the beginning of the canyon up to Tibble Fork and past the reservoir into the Mineral Basin area and extending as far as the Timpoonneke Campground and Salamander Flat area.
Over the years, there have been some improvements made to the communication abilities in the canyon. An emergency telephone was installed in the parking lot of Tibble Fork which Cannon says has been used a lot by people seeking emergency help.
Not only will the new cell phone towers enable enhanced communication, but they will also be a part of a traffic camera and traffic data program that will increase safety for members of the community.
Officials with the Utah Department of Transportation say that so far cell phone providers such as AT&T and T-Mobile have shown interest in providing service up the canyon.
People can expect their cell phones to begin working up the canyon around April.