Improved cell phone service in Hinsdale for AT&T customers is on its way, according to a presentation by the provider at an Oct. 12 meeting of the Plan Commission.
AT&T representative Jim Leahy introduced the company’s plan to attach to existing electric poles 10 new “nodes,” which are compact metal service centers that act like a miniature cell tower in facilitating calls, text messages, and other communications from phone to phone.
Eight of the nodes would be located in Hinsdale, one would be in Clarendon Hills, and one would be in Willowbrook.
Since the utility poles are located in the village's right of way, AT&T needs to get village approval. The provider got unanimous support from the five Plan Commission members present. Their recommendation will eventually be presented to the village's Board of Trustees, which will have the final say.
Leahy said his company has historically had bad coverage in Hinsdale, as it typically does in communities that are mostly residential and have little open or industrial space ideal for cell towers.
“With these  nodes, it will clear AT&T’s problems and we would be able to provide good service throughout the village,” Leahy said.
The nodes would attach to electric poles at least eight feet off the ground. AT&T already has an agreement with ComEd to use the poles.
Plan Commission members asked that the nodes be placed as high as possible so that kids can’t easily reach them. Leahy said it’s possible for the boxes to be raised one-and-a-half to two feet higher than the eight-foot mark.
The nodes will be composed of a two-foot tall antenna protruding from a power supply below. Each node also has a remote radio unit, which sends cell communication information to the provider’s central office via fiber-optic cables.
Commissioner Steve Cashman, an architect, said he thought the nodes will be less noticeable than a satellite dish on a house and will, like many necessary infrastructure objects including the utility poles the nodes will be attached to, become invisible to residents.
“There are elements in the environment that become visual white noise,” Cashman said. “People literally do not see them.”
AT&T is also looking to install the nodes in Naperville, which Leahy said has had similar cell coverage problems to Hinsdale. The Naperville City Council has an item on its next agenda for their approval. The nodes have also been installed in Chicago’s high-phone-traffic areas such as Wrigley Field, U.S. Cellular Field, and Metra train stations. Leahy did not provide statistics but said results in those areas have been positive.