A furore has finally erupted with regard a number of applications to have 4G (cell phone) masts erected at several places both in St Francis Bay and further south at Cape St Francis. As we watched them dig up our road verges burying metre after metre of fibre-optic cable, those amongst us who are more technically inclined would have known this was not being done to improve our Telkom telephone service for in fact the installation had nothing to do with Telkom to start  with.

Without getting into the pro’s or cons of having a 30metre + high mast planted next door it would be suffice to say it was never going to happen without a huge outcry. Rather than having every ‘expert’ voice their pounds worth some of our village leaders met on Wednesday to discuss the matter. Chaired by Councillor Ben Rheeder to the group have formed a body that includes the municipal representatives to look at a way forward and ensure whatever finally transpires will be the best solution appeasing the needs of those who require good voice and data services and those with health /  aesthetic concerns.

St Francis Property Owners chairman Wayne Furphy had this to say on the matter.

Wayne Furphy Chairman St Francis Property Woners Ass

Wayne Furphy Chairman St Francis Property Owners Ass

“We met with the Municipality yesterday at our request to understand what is happening with these tower applications. We recognise that the town requires good cell phone coverage but we need oversight on the location of these towers. We are putting a plan and a small team together to address these issues and are looking for anyone who has experience with telecom tower infrastructure to assist us.

These are 4G towers, but we need to get into a proactive position (as opposed to reactive) and prepare for the rollout of 5G towers which are inevitable. We have asked the Municipality to put a hold on the 4G tower installation for a few months to allow us to work with them to identify the best sites for towers, ie. least invasive, provide the necessary coverage, sharing of masts, type of mast, etc. The  Municipal officials attending our meeting do gave a good understanding of the issues, and will take our request back to the Municipality for consideration.”

There is little doubt that communication services in the region need to be improved. One network will work well in one area but will be unable to establish a stable connection around the corner. We are being held to ransom by the established networks and forced to sign 24 month contracts at outrages rates for data. Data rates are falling as already there are several new networks (RAIN is one) offering uncapped 4G from R250 a month on a month to month basis but coverage limited to a few areas in St Francis Bay and no coverage in Cape St Francis.

Government is threatening to pass legislation that will allow them to plant masts, and no doubt other equipment, wherever they want so best we are ahead of the system and as Furphy so succinctly puts is be ‘proactive not reactive’.