AT&T has been doing business in the Commonwealth of Virginia since 1897, and we’ve had operations in Loudoun County for more than 50 years. More than 400 AT&T employees and retirees live in Loudoun County, and we invested nearly $90 million in our network in the county from 2017 through 2019. In short, we’ve been a part of the community for decades – and we’ve always aspired to be good neighbors.
We are excited to be working with civic, business and government leaders to help bring new and improved technologies and services to the county. We are committed to making the investments needed to ensure the residents of your community reap the benefits of improved network coverage and speed. As we look to bring the latest communications infrastructure here, your support of this new technology is vital to ensuring that your citizens and our customers have access to these latest wireless technologies.
The technology — let alone the permitting process to build new facilities— can be complex. But we’re here to do our part - from decoding the terminology, to explaining how we choose technology and where we construct it, to answering any questions that emerge.
Loudoun County’s motto is “where tradition meets innovation.” As a member of the Loudoun County community for more than half a century, we too value tradition and we want to work with you to bring residents, businesses and visitors to this community the mobile high speed internet services they’ve come to expect in today’s connected and competitive world.
We look forward to working with you to bring the latest technology to your community.
AT&T has been doing business in the Commonwealth of Virginia since 1897, and has operated a utility substation at Short Hill for more than 50 years. More than 400 AT&T employees and retirees call Loudoun County home. We have invested more than $101.5 million in the County from 2016 through 2018, to help keep our customers connected to each other and their world. In short, we’ve been a part of the community for decades – and we always aspire to be good neighbors.
AT&T continues to work towards a digital transformation that requires reliable connectivity and continual improvements to our wireless network. In Virginia and across the nation, we’re building the next generation wireless network that can provide Wi-Fi, entertainment, and faster mobile broadband services.
Now more than ever, Virginians rely on their mobile devices for work and play; to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy; for teaching and learning; and much more. We’re constantly investing in our wireless network to make sure our public safety personnel have reliable mobile broadband connections, to keep Virginians connected, and to promote community and economic development in communities in the Commonwealth and around the country.
AT&T knows that new and improved wireless services are needed in Loudoun County, and in particular in the areas surrounding our Short Hill facility. The new site there will provide mobile broadband service in the community and surrounding areas, giving residents, businesses, public safety and other government organizations, not to mention visitors to Loudoun County’s wineries and breweries access to faster and more reliable mobile broadband service.
We’ve worked closely with local officials not only to comply with the law, but also to address questions that emerged as our development plans have evolved. We have kept area stakeholders apprised of our plans and addressed any questions or concerns they had.
Why does AT&T need this cell tower?
This site fills a coverage gap identified by Loudoun County in 2014. Loudoun County hired Atlantic Group of Companies, Inc. to conduct a “Third-Party Gap Analysis” in the existing wireless infrastructure in the County. Atlantic Group identified a large gap in wireless coverage in northern Loudoun County, the same gap AT&T now seeks to fill. The proposed site will have at least two co-location opportunities, allowing other wireless carriers to bring needed coverage to the area, improving service for all wireless consumers.
The cell site will also enhance voice and mobile broadband coverage for our customers and prepare for emerging technology such as 5G, which is significantly faster and more capable than today’s networks.
Specifically, this new cell site will help:
Area residents think this site is important, too.
Based on an AT&T survey of area residents in fall 2018, 78 percent said they support a new cell site at Short Hill if it means better mobile broadband and cell phone coverage for them, local first responders, their family, and/or their business. Nearly 84 percent of respondents consider mobile broadband and cellular coverage to be a very important service, and nearly 83 percent want faster download speeds and the ability to use more devices -- tablets, smart watches, home assistants, etc. -- where they live.
In short, anyone who lives in, works in, or visits the area will benefit from better voice and broadband coverage.
What’s the size of this proposed tower?
The proposed cell site will be located on a portion of the AT&T-owned property and will include a 50’ x 50’ compound with a 125’ tall monopole (single pole), surrounded by a 6’ tall fence. We reduced the height of the proposed monopole to 125’ to respond to feedback from area stakeholders, and to minimize, and perhaps even eliminate, the visual impact to the surrounding community. Our goal is to improve and expand wireless services in the area and accommodate antennas and equipment from at least 2 other wireless carriers.
The footprint of the new site will be much smaller than the large transmission dishes that were on the property for decades and were in use until recently. The large transmission dishes were affixed to two large steel and concrete towers with lighted beacons and other markings. The towers were removed several years ago, and we recycled more than 890,000 pounds of steel and the large concrete pads, grinding the concrete into gravel that was used for other landscaping projects on the property.
Why is a tower this size necessary at this location?
This new site is technically known as a “macro” site. Macro cells are the foundation of the capacity and wide-ranging coverage networks required by modern technology. They are the most fundamental building blocks needed to enable text, voice and high-speed mobile internet.
Macro cells have been constructed in many different sizes, configurations and heights. Macro cells are effective for covering large geographic areas, especially in rural situations, with relatively high capacity, because they tend to use lower-range spectrum frequencies, which travel further than the high frequency spectrum typically used by smaller cell technologies.
Based on their reach, macro cells provide the largest area of wireless network coverage with the fewest number of sites.
What has AT&T done so far?
As with every proposed cell site, we are following the approval process set up by Loudoun County’s leaders.
The very first step in the approval process was a “pre application” meeting with Loudoun County officials. This took place in early April 2018. AT&T representatives met with County zoning and planning officials to provide a general overview of the proposed site and answer any questions.
In May 2018, AT&T conducted a visual impact survey and “balloon test” to determine any visual impact from various vantage points, and create photo simulations of the proposed monopole.
We also held a community meeting in Lovettsville, on May 10, 2018, where we shared details about the proposal, including the results of the visual impact survey, and answered many questions or concerns the attendees had.
After deciding to lower the monopole from 155’ to 125’, AT&T conducted a second visual impact survey using a crane at the site, with balloons attached to the boom, which was raised to a height of 125’ above ground level.
Our team has participated in several individual meetings with local residents, business owners, community groups and others to discuss AT&T’s plans and solicit feedback.
are finalizing an environmental assessment that is required under the law, and
we expect to file our completed application with the Loudoun County Planning
Commission very soon.
Once we submit our application, the commission will review it before sending it to the Board of Supervisors for review and a decision on the application. The Board will schedule a public hearing that will allow AT&T to provide an overview of the plan.
Will you be clearing land?
No. The new site will be constructed on an open portion of AT&T’s property. The project is not expected to entail any additional clearing or grading; development will not encroach into the sensitive mountain soil areas. The remaining acreage will remain wooded and in its natural state. We will add additional trees and shrubs to fill in gaps where existing vegetation will not screen the site.
During the past few years, we’ve worked with the Loudoun County Arborist/Urban Forester on our landscaping plans for the property. We’ve hired local contractors and invested in outdoor projects, including:
When will service on the new tower be available?
The availability of service on the new tower depends, in part, on how quickly the plans are approved by the appropriate government agencies. In addition to local zoning and permitting review from Loudoun County, sites often require review by other agencies at the local, state and federal level, such as the FAA, FCC and the State and Tribal Historical Preservation Offices. Once all of this is complete, AT&T can build the site and commission it for service. End-to-end cycle times vary greatly and are heavily influenced by the planning and permitting process of the local jurisdiction. At this point, we anticipate a timeline of approximately one year from the application submission to service availability.
How will AT&T reduce the visual impact of the tower?
AT&T intends to takes steps to reduce the visual impact of the tower as much as possible, including coloring the tower to blend into the horizon. Through past experiences, we have learned that a gray finish is the best method to make the tower blend into the skyline and minimize any visual impact. However, we will discuss options with Loudoun County officials as the process evolves. Additionally, AT&T will use existing mature trees to screen the facility and will plant new native trees and shrubs, as necessary, to maximize screening and minimize the visual impact.
Will there be public meetings?
Yes. As noted above, we hosted a community meeting in May 2018. Since that meeting, we have used this website and a number of other communications, to speak directly with concerned residents and answer any questions or concerns they may have. We continue to have an open dialogue with local officials to create a project that works for Loudoun County and us. There will be public meetings and hearings before County decision makers. We will post the County’s hearing schedule as soon as we have it.