After much debate, 5G coming to Andover

Courtesy photoAT&T's 5G device in Andover will look similar to the one on this pole in Chatham. On top of the pole is the antenna. A utility box is attached partway down the pole.

The latest generation of wireless cellular technology, known as 5G, is coming to Andover.

After several meetings and much debate, the Select Board on Monday night decided to allow AT&T to install the first 5G device in town. It will be placed on a utility pole outside the IRS building on Lowell Street.

The installation of the device has raised concern among the Select Board and the public because the 5G antenna gives off radiation. Initially, AT&T attorney Michael Dolan of the firm Brown Rudnick, who has been representing the company at Select Board meetings, argued the device is compliant with the Federal Communication Commission's allowable limits for radiation emissions simply because of its small size and distance off the ground.

“At 25 feet (off the ground), it's less than 1 percent of the FCC allowable (emissions) limit,” Dolan said in a prior meeting.

In earlier meetings, Dolan also rejected the board's request for AT&T to pay for independent, third-party testing of the device, which needs to be re-certified on an annual basis with the town. Dolan said if the town wanted to do this testing, Andover would have to pay for it.

“We have an obligation to comply with the FCC guidelines as far as emissions,” said Dolan at a prior meeting. “We will comply and it is our position with thousands of these (devices) across the country, that if the town or city would like to perform its own peer review of our results or do independent testing, that is of course, welcomed, but that is not a charge that we feel is appropriate for us to pay.''

At Monday night's meeting, however, Dolan and town Attorney Thomas Urbelis appeared to come to a consensus. During the meeting, Urbelis read a motion drafted between the attorneys. The motion would allow AT&T to install the 5G device in Andover as long as each year during the re-certification process, AT&T signs a document “under the pains and penalties of perjury” that states the device remains in compliance with all FCC regulations, including those for radiation emissions.

“I am confident that the conversations with the board have resulted in a process that will be safe for residents while providing better cell service,” said Select Board member Dan Koh.

A spokesperson for AT&T said the company are unsure of when exactly the device is going to be installed in town.



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