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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

Cell phone gaps closing

By Cpl. Jose M. Montes | Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | September 26, 2002

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- The black hole of cell phone communication may close here within a few weeks, thanks to eight antennas AT&T Wireless is installing.

A ninth AT&T antenna awaits approval pending an environmental review, said Larry Rannals, base community plans and liaison officer. Sprint PCS antennas are in line to be approved sometime next year, he added.

"The (AT&T) antennas are expected to be up and operational by the middle of October," Rannals said.

Four of the antennas will be positioned to bring immediate relief to currently out-of-touch motorists on Basilone Road.

"The idea was to have good coverage along Basilone Road," Rannals said.
Otherwise, Marines in interior camps who choose not to have barracks phone service have been incommunicado.

"I think it's a great idea. A lot of Marines prefer to have a cell phone than a home phone," said Lance Cpl. Tommy W. Kemery, a combat engineer with 3rd Platoon, B Company, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division.

Marines choose cell phones largely because of their portability and perks.

"I got it because of the minutes; however, I take it out to the field, yet no one can get a hold of me if an emergency arises," Kemery said.
Rannals believes the problem will be virtually gone with the new antennas.

"The eight new antennas will give cell phone service to about 80 to 90 percent more of the base," Rannals said.
The antennas were placed so they won't interfere with military training.

Two antennas being erected will look like pine trees to blend in with their surroundings. One of them is at the I-5 northbound rest stop; the other, which is not yet approved, would go in at San Onofre Housing.

"If you drive by and glance, you'll just think that it's another pine tree and not a cell phone antenna," he added.
The new antennas will cover all major roads on base, including Vandegrift Boulevard and Basilone Road.
Relief also will come soon for non-AT&T customers, Rannals said. Sprint PCS is the next company slated to begin setting up its antennas.

"Sprint is probably six to eight months away from having their final plan approved," Rannals said.

AT&T Wireless technicians will maintain the antennas.  The antennas will remain here on an initial five-year lease, with the option of three more five-year extensions if both parties can agree on terms, Rannals said.

Besides Basilone Road, antennas will be located at Camp Del Mar, San Onofre Peak, Akron Tower between the 22 Area and Mainside, Range 215A and San Onofre Housing.

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