Cell tower data for USA?

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07-21-2020 07:41 AM
Regular Contributor

I'm looking for cell tower data - anyone know of a source, free or pay?  The FCC has a database, but it only contains a tiny subset of the cell towers, as apparently not all towers are required to register.

Thanks.

Jay
Washoe County GIS
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Esri Contributor

My sources within the cell tower property management community tell me that accurate information on cell towers, their precise locations, and especially the parcel data associated, is the holy grail of the industry, and accurate, complete data is not to be had nationwide.  The telco's themselves somehow manage to lose track, which is one of the reasons they farm out to management companies.   Worse yet, where you can find coordinates, you'll also find that the bulk of them are wildly inaccurate, oftentimes not falling on the correct parcels.  If you lay the FCC data on an imagery basemap and look closely, you'll see what I mean.  Unless someone can come up with something like a spectral signature (or maybe LiDAR?) to pinpoint cell towers in imagery, and an algorithm to associate those with the nearest FCC coordinates, I don't know how you'd automate georeferencing anyone's data.

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Regular Contributor

Paul,

It does rather boggle the mind that a dataset that is the backbone of so much of our modern world's commerce and communication infrastructure is so piecemeal.  Our Dispatch Center ended up getting spreadsheets from various contractors for each of the major telco carriers, which I've brought into GIS for our analysis purposes.  And yes, dealing with this data is just as problematic as you might expect (horrendous field names, no standard schema, and generally bewildering IDs). 

Fortunately our project doesn't require parcel level accuracy, but I do like your idea of a LIDAR analysis to validate location data...

Jay

Jay
Washoe County GIS
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MVP Esteemed Contributor

....the telco's themselves somehow manage to lose track, which is one of the reasons they farm out to management companies....

Not defending the telcos but rather explaining them: their primary mission is to provide dial tone.  Period.  They do not provide any qa/qc on locations of facilities or even addresses of customers. In the days of e-911 and land lines, if you told your provider you live at 666 S Devils Ln but really live at 1234 Elm ST, guess what?  They believe you and 666 S Devils Ln is where the cops, fire, and ems are going.  

Lets ratchet things up a bit: fewer land lines and more cell phones.  Old habits die hard...

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