TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Cell Towers Under Siege

Cell Towers Under Siege

Eric Friedebach (
16 Feb 2006 12:43:34 -0800

Thieves steal the copper, then resell it

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 02/16/06

A towering symbol of the communication age is under attack by thieves
seeking loot coveted since the Bronze Age: copper.

At least three cellphone tower sites in Gwinnett County have been
stripped in the last month by criminals who apparently want to sell
the metal.

"It's an ongoing issue throughout the metro area," said Kristin
Wallace, an Atlanta-based Sprint Nextel spokeswoman.

The thieves don't scale the spindly, windblown towers. Much of their
electrical equipment is on the ground, in metal boxes typically
protected by padlocked chain-link fences.

The copper plates and bars stolen from the tower sites don't directly
affect cellular phone service.

Instead, the shiny metal's electrical conductivity and corrosion
resistance properties help ground the towers against lightning
strikes. And those can cause service interruptions.

Copper is one of the oldest metals known to humankind, and ranks third
in industrial usage behind iron and aluminum, according to the U.S.
Geological Survey. Its common use lends itself to easy and profitable

Taken individually, the tower thefts do not add up to large amounts of
money. Plates stolen from one Gwinnett tower were valued at just $100
by the technician reporting the crime. A copper bar taken from another
tower site was valued at $500.

Eric Friedebach
/Jaywalking in Dallas/

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