What does a dry county have in common with the cellular signal at my house?---Many times neither has any bars.

I live out in the boonies of Hudson, Texas. From my home, I can be at the Hudson High School campus within 5 minutes. But, we're also far enough removed from Highway 94 that our cellular service is pretty much dead. If anyone in my family wants to make a call on a mobile phone, we go to 'The Chair'. That chair sits in a corner in our dining room, and for some reason, 'The Chair' usually gets 'one bar' of service.

Recently, a friend of mine mentioned that he believed a new AT&T cell tower was going up across from Triple Creek Drive, just off FM 3258 in Hudson.  As the crow flies, or more importantly, as the line-of-sight cell signal travels, that's less than a mile from my house.

It was time for some research. Here's what I found out.

AT&T and Tillman Infrastructure

In 2017, communications giant AT&T entered an agreement with tower-building behemoth Tillman Infrastructure to erect thousands of new sites to provide coverage to the rapidly escalating needs of customers.  I took a look at the Tillman map for these tower sites that were either in development, in construction, or completed in the Pineywoods area.  Sure enough, one of those tower sites is addressed at 1582 FM 3258.  That's the one less than a mile from my house!

In fact, I was able to speak with Alex Schwartz, Vice-President of Development at Tillman Infrastructure.  Here is that interview:

A Visit to the Site

Sunday, June 26, I decided to pay a visit to that address.  When I turned onto the freshly-laid gravel entry road, I was like a kid seeing a bike under the Christmas tree.  Granted, the 'bike' still needed to be assembled, but it was there!  The first tower stage was affixed to the ground and the other tower stages lay nearby, ready to be hoisted by crane into position (you can see the pics at the end of this post).  I was giddy, but I still had questions.

Reaching Out to AT&T

How much longer before the tower was fully constructed? What would be the coverage area for this new tower?  How long would we have to wait for the antennas, transmitters, and receivers to be added to the top so this thing could be operational?  I'm a patient dude, but it was like I could smell the chocolate chip cookies baking, but no one could tell me when they would be done.

So, I reached out to the corporate communications department of AT&T.  First off all, the two ladies I corresponded with were extremely polite and responded to my questions in a very timely manner.  Unfortunately, I didn't get the specifics I was hoping for.  Instead, I got this:

"This cell site is part of our ongoing investment to improve service and coverage for our Lufkin customers. We look forward to enhancing the area’s coverage and providing residents and first responders with faster, more reliable wireless service."

Well, shucks.  I've been hoping for better cell service for nearly a dozen years, I guess a few more weeks of being patient is going to hurt too bad.  When it does become operational, I'm definitely going to bake some chocolate chip cookies just to complete the metaphor.

Other Tillman Towers in the Area

I did some closer examining of the Tillman Tower Map and found there were several dozen towers marked on the map of Deep East Texas.  The towers were designated by either being 'In Development', 'In Construction', or 'In Air'. The one on FM 3258 was designated as 'In Construction', so I knew what that meant from my first-hand observation of the tower site.

A tower at 506 Trenton near Atkinson Drive in Lufkin was designated as 'In Air'.  I went out to that location to see what that implied.  As you can see below, that tower looks fully ready to go.  I'm not sure if it is operational as of yet.

KICKS 105
KICKS 105
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I then drove to 808 Ricks Road, just off Tulane near Whitehouse Drive.  This tower site is listed as 'In Development'.  I'm guessing that means in the planning stages because I found nothing going on at or near that address.  There was a wide-open area that was chained off, but signage showed that it was the property of the City of Lufkin, and the address was on the wrong side of the road with respect to 808 Ricks Road.

So, for the folks in Hudson around FM 3258, this is great news.  Will the signal carry out towards the Neches River bottom and northward towards Highway 103? We shall see. I know this much, every day on my way home, I'll be driving by the site at a snail's pace just to see how much closer we are to some delicious chocolate chip cookies.

Cell Tower Construction

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