Are some 5G cell towers concealed as fake cacti?

By May 2, 2024 Technology

We came across the following claim across multiple accounts in posts on the social media platforms X:

The post suggested that some cactuses were fakes that concealed other structures, and that examples of these could be found in the state of Arizona in the US.

While the post itself did not make any specific claims regarding the nature of the ‘fake’ cactuses, comments under the post by other X users suggested that the cactuses could be concealing hidden cameras or 5G cell towers.

A reverse image search also revealed that what appeared to be photographs of the same scene with the cactus on other social media sites including Reddit, YouTube and 9gag. The 9gag post originated from April 2023, suggesting that the image had not been taken only recently.

A search on X also found older posts that were similar in content. Some of these posts pointed out that cactuses ‘growing right next to the sidewalk’ were in unnatural locations, and claimed that they were in fact 5G cell towers.

Hidden Cact-eye

A web search revealed reports from 2015 that the city of Paradise Valley in Arizona had deployed licence plate reader (LPR) cameras in multiple fake cactuses.

Responding to a request for comment from the media, the town manager suggested that the concealment of the cameras inside the fake cactuses were meant to be ‘‘aesthetically pleasing’ rather than sneaky’.

Despite these assurances, concerns remained regarding excessive data retention, inefficient allocation of resources, and negative perceptions around the practice of hiding law enforcement cameras.

The tech publication Ars Technica, reporting on the issue, pointed out that these cameras were often mounted on ostensibly innocuous items such as traffic barrels and ladders.

Thorny Towers

The images used in the X posts appeared to portray fake cacti that were different from those used to house licence plate reader cameras. As such, we extended our search to cover the utilisation of such structures for cell towers.

In doing so, we found reports that indicated fake cactuses had been used to house cell towers as far back as 2009, when the Arizona Daily Star reported on the telecommunications providers T-Mobile and AT&T disguising their ‘ugly’ cell towers in Arizona—including by using a cactus—due to residents’ desires to enjoy ‘pristine desert views’.

While in 2009, the cactus cell towers were only fitted with 3G technology, and 5G technology would only come later in 2018, further reports suggest that this is already becoming commonplace.

A CNN report from 2021 included a picture and descriptions of 4G and 5G cacti cell towers, though it was suggested that greater focus would be placed on streetlights and other road fittings for 5G technology as 5G signals are more easily blocked by objects, and therefore less suitable for the chunky faux plants.

The use of cacti as 4G LTE and 5G wireless antennas was corroborated by an article in the online tech magazine Interesting Engineering, which highlighted that such concealment encompassed faux pine trees and other architectural features such as chimneys, church steeples and clock towers.

Just as in the initial cacti cell towers in 2009, Interesting Engineering notes that such concealment structures are often implemented, as a result of public desire not to have visible cell antennas near their home. These demands are at times also accompanied by legislation requiring concealment.

We visited the website of Valmont Industries, a company specialising in telecommunications infrastructure concealment cited by both CNN and Interesting Engineering. While we did not find specific mentions of 5G, we did find product listings for faux cacti communications structures.

Prickly Arrangements

Negative perceptions of the faux cacti cell towers therefore persist in spite of their introduction being in some part due to the demands of residents. Residents unaware of these structures may be unpleasantly surprised when they realise that these structures are not natural.

Another possible explanation for negative perceptions could be persistent conspiracy theories over the nature of 5G technology, including those of health risks and their use as a tool to control the population.

At present, there is no consistent and conclusive evidence that suggests 5G technology presents a threat to human health.

Nevertheless, despite the negative perceptions, it is true that some 5G cell towers and law enforcement cameras are concealed as cacti in the US.

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