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Questions about Communication/Observation Towers

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Toyko just opened the Sky Tree this year. And we have pictures somewhere at home from the base of the tower in Guangzhou (didn't have time to go up) from last year right after it had just opened. It seems like a surge of these new massive towers for communications and observation are being built. Why?

Are these just vanity projects for the cities involved or do they make financial sense? For communications - why not just stick antenna on top of existing buildings like One Shell did? Or create tower farms like out in Missouri City area? It seems this would be so much more cost effective.

Does the income from an observation deck or two and the prestige from a cool new tower come anywhere close to justifying the cost of building one of these?

Or is the cost of constructing a 600m observation/communication tower substantiantally cheaper than constructing an equivalent height occupiable building?

If so - then by all means I hope someone builds a 600m oil derrick/shuttle observation tower on the block bounded by Louisiana, Milam, Walker & McKinney.

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Not vanity. Necessity.

Tokyo Skytree (formerly called New Tokyo Tower) was necessary because the old Tokyo Tower was simply too short. When Tokyo Tower was built, there were very few skyscrapers in the region. As Tokyo has grown, the tower has become surrounded by skyscrapers. It wasn't a problem for a long time because most communication was done at relatively low frequencies, which can bend around and bounce off of buildings in harmless ways. But as our communications needs have expanded, we're using higher frequencies that don't deal well with skyscrapers, and there was a lot of shadowing and multipath problems in Tokyo.

Skytree is almost double the height of the old Tokyo tower, so it can push signals inbetween the buildings easier.

It's becoming more and more of a problem in cities around the world. In the last ten years Chicago has floated at least three plans to build 2,000+ foot broadcasting platforms because of all the new skyscrapers. New York came close to putting one up in New Jersey right after 9/11.

The Guangzhou tower you mention, and a lot of the other new ones in China exist for the reasons that the original Tokyo Tower went up -- You had a small city suddenly become a large city and there's a need for a high platform for radio and microwave signals. Like the BT tower in London and the CN Tower in Toronto.

That said, there are some towers that are purely ornamental/ego driven. The ones in Macau and Kazakstan come to mind. In both of those cases, it was a government trying to assert its power.

(BTW: Those links are to TAI, HAIF's sister web site for Japan)

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