FCC Approves WIA Petitions in Big 5G Win

CS_SMC ROW Sample RdThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a long-awaited infrastructure Order that clarifies key siting rules for wireless infrastructure deployment, including 5G. The “5G Upgrade Order” includes a declaratory ruling that took effect immediately and a proposal for further comment that would allow site owners to expand compounds without zoning delays.  The FCC action will promote collocation, eliminate roadblocks to siting on existing infrastructure, and accelerate wireless network upgrades.

“This is the culmination of a multi-year effort by WIA working with the FCC to smooth the path for upgrading the nation’s wireless infrastructure through collocation. The 5G Upgrade Order comes at an ideal time as 5G deployments are accelerating. By improving the process for collocation, the FCC makes deploying 5G more efficient for communities across America. The FCC also teed up further action to expand compounds by 30 feet around existing towers, where upgrades are needed for public safety, generators, and mobile edge computing for 5G services,” said WIA President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein. “WIA is grateful for Commissioner Carr’s consistent leadership on these reforms and the strong support from Chairman Pai and Commissioner O’Rielly. We also thank the FCC staff for their diligent attention to WIA’s petitions. Today truly marks a victory for wireless consumers who are relying more than ever on connectivity.”

What is the 5G Upgrade Order and How Does It Help Infrastructure Providers?

The 5G Upgrade Order has been the culmination of eight years of work led by WIA, the FCC, and Congress to update rules governing macro and other wireless infrastructure deployments. This is a big step to pave the way for 5G deployment when Americans rely on connectivity more than ever. The 5G Upgrade Order:

  •  Sets a clear demarcation as to when the 60-day shot clock for local approval begins
  • Clarifies which new equipment qualifies for streamlined approval
  • Ensures local governments cannot misuse conditions of approval, like concealment and aesthetic conditions, to limit the ability to quickly upgrade infrastructure
  • Clarifies what concealment elements are and that local governments cannot require new concealment elements for the modification that were not part of the facility that was approved previously
  • To “defeat concealment” the proposed modification must cause a reasonable person to view the structure’s intended stealth design as no longer effective after the modification; for example, the local government cannot say that placing coax cable on the outside of the facility defeats concealment
  • Provides more flexibility for providers in upgrading equipment like smaller remote radio units to keep up with advances in technology
  • An environmental assessment is not needed when the FCC and applicants have entered into a memorandum of agreement to mitigate effects of a proposed undertaking on historic properties

It also asks for public comment on a rule change that permits 30 feet for compound expansions, which would facilitate deployment of advanced equipment like edge data centers and generators.

“Today’s action will expedite equipment upgrades to deploy these next-generation networks, which are critical to expanding economic opportunities and supporting public health and safety in American communities,” the FCC said in an official statement.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr has been leading the Commission’s efforts in working toward 5G upgrades. He announced at WIA’s Connect (X): All Access that the FCC would vote on this important Order. In a press release following the event, the Commissioner said, “America’s tower crews and telecom techs are building the strongest 5G network in the world. Their efforts already are creating new jobs and opportunities in towns across the country. By streamlining tower upgrades, we will encourage even more investment in our communities and new service to connect families.” He continued saying, “Rural America will benefit from new competition for their broadband dollars. First responders will benefit from dedicated networks and expanded capacity. And all Americans will benefit from world-leading wireless service as existing towers are upgraded to 5G.”

Small Cells Aren’t Like a Pizza Box

Repost

Pizza Box Small Cells
Number of Pizza Boxes that Fit in 6 Cubic Feet or 28 Cubic Feet

WHAT THE INDUSTRY SAYS

The wireless industry has been pushing the fiction that small cells are the size of a pizza box.   Here is a quote in a Wireless Week article

“Americans will benefit tremendously from innovations like 5G and the Internet of Things, which require more small cell facilities – often the size of a pizza box – to build a denser network,” CTIA’s assistant vice president of regulatory affairs Scott Bergmann said. “Today’s action by the FCC recognizes the minimal impact of these facilities, but there is more work to be done. We must streamline infrastructure policies at all levels of government so that wireless providers can rapidly deliver the next generation of products and services to consumers.”  (emphasis added)

Furthermore, as reported by Wireless Estimator here,  “In the CTIA presentation, the trade group said that networks can now be extended on (sic) common structures like street lights and utility poles and that there will be 300,000 “pizza box-sized small cells needed in [the] next 3-4 years.”

WHAT THE INDUSTRY ACTUALLY WANTS

While some small cells are the size of a pizza box- many aren’t.   The industry clearly doesn’t think so either despite their public pronouncement otherwise.   In the newly proposed state legislation in 20+ states, there is language that allows the wireless industry to install up to 6 cubic feet of antennas and up to 28 cubic feet of equipment on each pole.  For example, see this language from the recently passed Virginia statute.

“Small cell facility” means a wireless facility that meets both of the following qualifications: (i) each antenna is located inside an enclosure of no more than six cubic feet in volume, or in the case of an antenna that has exposed elements, the antenna and all of its exposed elements could fit within an imaginary enclosure of no more than six cubic feet; and (ii) all other wireless equipment associated with the facility is cumulatively no more than 28 cubic feet in volume, or facilities comprised of such higher limits as established by the Federal Communication Commission. The following types of associated equipment are not included in the calculation of equipment volume: electric meter, concealment, telecommunications demarcation boxes, ground-based enclosures, back-up power systems, grounding equipment, power transfer switches, cut-off switches, and vertical cable runs for the connection of power and other services.”

In other words, the industry likes to present to municipalities that small cells are the size of a singular pizza box because it makes a compelling story.   However, the want to give their members the right to install substantially larger equipment than would fit in a single pizza box.

Please feel free to use this image without attribution.   Also, for another good representation of what 28 cubic feet represents- see http://wireless.blog.law/2017/04/22/california-sb-649-big-lie-small-cells/.

Tower Projections

SNL Kagan recently released their tower projections through 2025. While there was a decline in active sites during 2014 due to the site decommissioning of Nextel, Leap Wireless, and MetroPCS, SNL Kagan thinks the shrinkage will pass. A number of positive events and trends outweigh the temporary lull of carrier consolidation, including: (1) Consumer demand for mobile data has ramped up like the blade of a hockey stick and will continue to follow that path for several more years; Cisco estimates U.S. mobile data traffic will grow 7x from 2014 to 2019. (2) The recently concluded AWS-3 auction will generate an uptick in lease amendments and corresponding new equipment roll outs. A similar demand spike will follow the 600MHz incentive auction which is scheduled to start in 2016,” John Fletcher with SNL Kagan explained. Fletcher also noted that now FirstNet has the funding to build out the 700MHz band. They will create a new tenant for approximately 20,000 to 40,000 towers across the nation. “Looking back, the U.S. has experienced a wireless technology upgrade roughly every 10 years since Analog 1G premiered in 1984,” Fletcher wrote. “Prior to and following both 3G and 4G commercial launches, tower and site growth spiked, then plateaued. Our forecast for 5G (we think 5G could emerge in the early 2020’s) mirrors this pattern. While 5G standards have yet to be set, pundits anticipate it will be the first of the wireless technologies to boast throughput rates measured in Gbps.”Tower projections