Our Town: Stealth Antennae

pine trees aren’t just for Christmas. An 80-foot pine recently sprouted in Kalihi
Valley, the island’s first specimen of communication “stealth” technology. It’s
not just wind whistling through those nylon needles, but wireless signals for
local cell phone and computer users.

“Really cool,” is how Bill Woods describes
the antenna-disguised-as-a-tree. As chairman of Kalihi’s neighborhood board, Woods
is on a mission to de-pole and de-wire the valley.

Alice Keesing

“There is a reason we call Kalihi
the pole capital of the Pacific,” he says. “If you stand at the corner of School
and Likelike, you can count at least 200 poles. It is unbelievable.”

T-Mobile proposed a new transmission/reception pole in the valley, the board’s
response was: Uh-uh, not in our back yard.

T-Mobile came back with the idea
of stealthily slipping in the hardware in plain sight-as a fake tree.

of steel and clad in an epoxy bark, with nylon needles, the tree took root at
Kalihi Elementary. It looks just like an artificial Christmas tree that you’d
buy at the store, says T-Mobile’s engineering chief Roy Irei. It blends in with
the environment, apparently even fooling the birds, who are welcome to settle
in, says Irei with a laugh.

With the extra cost, wireless companies aren’t
exactly racing to put up the fake trees-this one cost T-Mobile $50,000 more than
a regular pole. But on the Mainland, stealth technology is becoming an attractive
alternative to a landscape bristling with techie antennae.

The disguise
technology doesn’t stop at pine trees. Image-conscious neighborhoods can go with
palms, or giant saguaro cacti, water towers, bell towers or functional clock towers,
complete with ringing bells.

As far as Kalihi residents are concerned, their
pine tree beats yet another industrial pole. But perhaps the best testament to
its success is that most people don’t even know it’s there.



Pak, local author and assistant professor at the University of Hawai‘i at
Manoa, recommends Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider, the book, not the award

winning film. “For me, this book raised
my consciousness for humanity
a notch or two. Ihimaera’s book is a feel-good, tears-in-the-eyes kind of
story. A can’t-put-it-down read.” Harcourt, 2003.


K. Ueki, Honolulu Theatre for Youth’s assistant to the managing director,
recommends Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. “This movie remains one
of my favorites because it combines moderate levels of blood, guts and violence
with over-the-top sick humor, fabulous actors and great costumes. It’s Quentin
Tarantino—what’s not to like!?” Miramax, 1994.


Riggle, Kamehameha Schools’ Warrior marching band director, recommends Tower
of Power’s Oakland Zone. Recognized particularly for their horn sections,
members of Tower of Power have also recorded, individually and as a group, with
Santana, Elton John and Bonnie Raitt to name a few. The group, previously known
as the Motowns, has produced more than 20 albums since the ’70s. “They’re
the best example of a rock ‘n’ roll band.” O.R. Music, 2003.