Maryville and Alcoa are slowly joining the ever-faster internet age as they’ve seen multiple efforts from different wireless services to install fiber optic cables and small cell infrastructures at various locations.
Verizon is now starting to join AT&T in an effort to install its own underground network of cables for a wireless technology network in the area.
But the two companies are not laying cables for the same technology.
Maryville city spokeswoman Jane Groff said AT&T’s work is based around fiber optic internet but Verizon is building out connections for its 5G — also known as “small cell” — network, a cellular technology hailed as the next big advance in high-speed data for phones.
Crews with the primary contractor, Mastec Inc., have been threading Verizon’s distinct orange cable underground in recent weeks.
The cable can be seen around various city locations as a handful of projects are underway and more are set to follow in the near future.
Groff said installations like these do not need city approval aside from permits to work in the rights of way. Wireless companies get approval on a federal level as a utility provider and then work with local governments on the details of each project.
She also said AT&T has had to work more closely with Maryville than Verizon. Maps posted on Maryville’s website suggest projects involving fiber optic cable installation are more residential based than Verizon’s 5G infrastructure work.
Maryville city officials said Verizon’s permits primarily were along major commercial routes like U.S. Highways 321 and 411, Foothills Mall Drive, and Sevierville and Montvale roads.
And not all of them involve digging.
Maryville Director of Engineering & Public Works Brian Boone emailed that some lines are being placed aerially between poles.
Though the city recently approved an ordinance to regulate the placement of 5G devices in various locations similar to efforts recently enacted in neighboring counties, Boone said this is a localized effort.
“It is our understanding that these installations are only going in along major arterial streets and not just a piece of a larger plan,” he wrote.
As where AT&T has wrapped up a good portion of its work for the moment, Boone added Verizon may be done with its installations before the year is out. “Some locations have already been installed, some are in progress, and some are yet to be installed,” Boone said. “By the permit application, all installations should be completed by late fall 2019.”
High-speed and next-generation cellular technologies aren’t only moving forward in Maryville, however.
Townsend Recorder Danny Williamson said he’s heard tell fiber optic may be coming to the city, but was unsure.
Alcoa Director of Public Works & Engineering Shane Snoderly said the fiber optic cable and 5G installation has followed almost the exact same installation pattern: AT&T has installed residential fiber optic cable and Verizon has permits to install 5G infrastructure.
AT&T coverage maps do not currently show its fiber services available in Maryville or Alcoa.
Permits to complete construction in Maryville and Alcoa right of ways have flowed in steadily since the cables started going in.
Additionally, city officials say there is no specific timeline for when the 5G network will be operable, suggesting that big wireless companies are just laying the groundwork for future plans.