Mobile data service in Atlantic City is expected to improve within the next few months through an initiative also expected to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for the city.
Towers will start going up on city-owned land and rooftops within the next few months to boost 4G capacity in the resort, where service tends to degrade as local wireless networks are overloaded with users during the summer tourist season and big events such as last month’s Phish and Metallica concerts at Bader Field, said Municipal Communications CEO Peter Corry during a joint press conference Monday with retired NBA star Julius “Dr. J” Erving and city officials including Mayor Lorenzo Langford .
He could not say how many towers will go up throughout the city — that will depend on carrier demand.
But the rapidly increasing use of 4G-enabled devices nationally and the smaller service radius a single tower can provide for the superior data network should bode well for the project — and city coffers, he said.
“Every place there’s a tower now, there needs to be another one. 4G is a faster, more robust service but it requires more rooftops and more antenna systems,” Corry said.
Municipal Communications partners with public agencies to build towers that typically host antennae for multiple major mobile service providers, which rent the space, he said.
A tower that leases space to four providers typically generates between $50,000 and $70,000 in annual rent, said Corry, whose Atlanta-based company has similar agreements with government entities based in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.
The 25-year contract cementing the deal gives half of that revenue from to the city, said Langford. His office declined to release the documents Monday, but anticipated doing so when they are finalized later this week.
Corry said his intent is to locate towers as far away as possible from the public eye, use “stealth towers” with internal antennae and otherwise plan installation so the infrastructure is not an “eyesore”.
Erving, who kept a condominium for nearly 30 years in the Ocean Club building on the Boardwalk between Montpelier and Chelsea avenues, said his “great affinity for Atlantic City” prompted his involvement with the project.
“About half an hour ago, we were standing outside city hall, we picked up the phones and there weren’t too many (service) bars,” said the 62-year-old NBA Hall of Famer.
Erving’s Dr. J. Enterprises LLC provides marketing, strategic planning and corporate development consulting services for Municipal Communications, according to the company’s website.
Municipal Communications brought Dr. J. Enterprises on board at the end of last year, citing its prior experience in communications and health care ventures as among the reasons for the partnership.
He also formerly owned the Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Company and served on boards of companies including Saks Fifth Avenue, Converse and Sports Authority, according to a Municipal Communications statement dated Dec. 6, 2011.
By then, Erving’s financial troubles had gone public in media reports about a lawsuit filed in October 2011 over his former golf club outside Atlanta and foreclosure on his home in St. George, Utah, in 2010.
The problems from golf club investment were rooted mainly in Erving being “misled”, said his lawyer Dorna Taylor
That venture also involved The Erving Group, another of his companies separate from Dr. J. Enterprises, she said
“There’s no connection,” said Taylor, senior vice-president of legal affairs for Dr. J Enterprises. “The golf course turned out to be a bad investment. Julius, on my advice, walked away from that situation when it was clear the golf course could not do well under the financial deal he was in.
“It was a conscious decision to let that go back to the banks, get it off the books, rather than sink more money into (it), ... and get involved in some better investments (such as) Municipal Communications.”
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