A new cell tower planned in southern York County could bring relief for wireless customers fed up with missed calls and shaky reception.
Cell service has been lousy for years in the rural areas south of Rock Hill. The 200-foot tower proposed by Comporium Communications would boost coverage from an unlikely spot - a corner of the driving range at the Rock Hill Country Club.
"Cellular telephone coverage in this area is very weak or non-existent for Comporium and other wireless carriers," said Keith Powell of Oasis Consulting of the Carolinas, a company pitching the facility.
It's a daily source of problems, said Dee Cathcart, a 21-year-old college student who lives in Southland Park off Saluda Road.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Herald
"I've missed a couple of calls, but then I get a voice mail, and the phone never rang," Cathcart said. "I can usually count on missing one or two calls."
Booming wireless market
On a daily basis in South Carolina, between 50 to 70 percent of all 911 calls are made from wireless communication devices, Powell said, citing the need for reliable access to police, fire and EMS.
Roughly 20 percent of residences have gone wireless only, and the number continues to grow monthly.
About a dozen cell towers serve the Rock Hill area, according to a map provided by the city.
Typically, a company such as Comporium will put up a tower for its own customers and then lease space to other carriers such as Nextel, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint.
The city of Rock Hill allows carriers to put antennas on three city-owned water tanks for rents of $1,500 to $2,500 a month, assistant city manager Jimmy Bagley said.
Water tanks are an alternative to building more towers.
"None of us want to see another tower if we can help it," said Bagley.
"We know you've got to have them, but you don't want any more than you have to."
The Rock Hill area has a few dead spots for cell phone coverage, Bagley said, but problems are much worse in rural areas such as Chester County.
"They just don't have the customer base," he said.
The tower would stand on land leased from the Country Club near Saluda and Harper Gault roads.
Sand is currently stored there. City planning commissioners backed the proposal last week, but more approvals are needed.
Trees and foliage would provide for a natural buffer, Powell said, and the spot already houses Duke Power utility lines.