For over two decades, massive steel cellphone towers and antennas have been camouflaged as trees in plain sight throughout the U.S.
According to industry professionals, the trend, known as "stealthing" or concealment, is likely to continue as our appetite for mobile phone service and data continues to rise.
The demand for new cellphone towers and antennas grew enormously in the early 2000s when people started to walk around with a phone in their pockets. Previously, tall steel cellphone towers were often located in industrial and rural areas, shielded from locals who considered them an eyesore.
But a variety of reasons, including more cellphones, more data demand, and more development, has led to the need to find innovative ways to install new towers and antennas over the last decade or so. Without stealth towers and antennas, fulfilling those demands will turn our streets into a post-apocalyptic wasteland riddled by towers, and that's not a good look.
And so, across America, clunky 4G mobile towers are mostly "disguised" with regionally prominent foliage.
Evergreens are tied to sites in the Northeast. They're designed in the south to look like palm trees. And then there's cactus out West.
In certain cases, the equipment is tucked into existing church bell towers, town square signs, and historic landmarks. On farmland, 4G-enabled water towers are set up to give the appearance that they are part of the landscape.
But with the deployment of 5G, the next wave of wireless speed, major cities will likely focus less on complex cover-ups and more on a piece of architecture that has been the mainstay of urban and suburban landscapes for more than a century: street lights.
It's all great for aesthetics, but the concealment of cell towers has become all the more critical these days, specifically for security purposes.
Some groups in the United Kingdom have vandalized 5G streetlights, shot them down, or set fire to them, over unfounded concerns regarding health threats and conspiracy theories related to Covid-19.
The attacks have since died down, but concealing cell towers as foliage or street lights still serves its purpose.
Having to change out older street lights with 5G-enabled ones to help the expansion will sound like a comparatively minor process, but doing so would serve as a major step for many communities to become smart cities moving forward.