5G Small Cell Wireless Facilities

5G technology will soon become the standard for telecommunications and wireless communication. This means the infrastructure used to support those types of communication will change too. 

5G-Technology-01-807x449

The traditional large cell towers we are used to seeing have a lot of limitations in how they will work with the new 5G technology. It’s not designed to allow 5G to work at its maximum capacity.  In order to use the full ability of 5G the data speed, the 5G technology will be delivered through what is called small cell wireless facilities. This means that 5G providers will need to use small cell wireless facilities in more locations.  These small cell wireless facilities will help deliver data at speeds roughly 20 times faster than possible with current 4G technology.

Limitations of 5G Technology Infrastructure Municipal Regulation

Recent state and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations have changed how municipalities will be able to regulate the placement of small cell wireless facilities.

The 85th Texas Legislature adopted new state law, obligating Texas municipalities to permit the use of the municipal right of way and municipal poles (including traffic signal poles, non-decorative light poles, and sign poles) for placement of wireless network equipment and the installation of new poles for use by wireless network providers. The new state law restricts municipal authority to prohibit facilities in the right of way. Further, the new law places strict time limits on considering permits and fees charged for permits.

The new state law does allow some municipal discretion over design by requiring network facilities to conform to municipal design standards in designated design and historic districts. In Southlake, Town Square and the Carillon Commercial District have been designated as design districts. The state law also allows the City some regulation if a network provider places a stand-alone pole in a City park right of way or in the right of way adjacent to a residential area.

The City of Southlake adopted a public right of way management ordinance in order to comply with the new state law.  The ordinance modifies the right of way management codes to accommodate the new types of activities and facilities related to wireless networks. In short, services providers will need a specific use permit to place a small cell facility on private property; providers will need Council approval for placement in public right of way like design district, parks or residential; and providers can place small cell towers in public right of way with permit approval from Southlake Public Works.

In late 2018, the Federal Communications Commission approved sweeping regulations for 5G infrastructure curtailing both State and local authority to regulate 5G facilities. The intent of the FCC ruling was to meet rapidly increasing demand for wireless services and prepare our national infrastructure for 5G. The FCC states that providers must deploy infrastructure at significantly more locations and expanded the ability of service providers to place facilities not only in the right-of-way but also on public buildings. In Southlake, this could mean buildings like Town Hall and DPS facilities.

What are small cell wireless facilities?

5G small cell facilities are wireless units mounted on existing structures (buildings, rooftops, utility and light poles, etc.) that produce bandwidth signals over a small coverage area. Traditionally, the network infrastructure consisted of large cell towers that span bandwidth capability for miles. However, these structures have a lot of limitations. With assistance from small cell facilities, these units will help complement larger cell tower coverage and add capacity in high demand areas.

Advantages of small cell facilities:

  • Small cells can deliver higher data rate up to few gigabits per second
  • Cost effective
  • Faster deployments
  • Location requirements are minimum (convenient to deploy indoors and outdoors)

5G Infrastructure on Private Property

For interested parties wanting to place 5G small cell antennas or networks on private property:

  • Apply for Specific Use Permit (SUP) through PDS
  • The application will undergo the normal development process for approval or denial (P&Z, two readings at CC)

5G Infrastructure on Public Property

For interested parties wanting to place 5G small cell antennas or networks on public property:

  • Apply for Small Cell Application through PDS
  • The application will undergo the normal development process for approval or denial (P&Z, two readings at CC)

5G providers looking to place 5G infrastructure on public property must follow the guidelines for a Right of Way permit

The City of Southlake also created a Wireless Facilities Design Manual for the installation of Network Nodes and Node Support Poles.