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5G Small Cell Deployment
Posted on 04/08/2019

 About Small Cell Facilities

Small cell facilities are low-powered antennas installed by private telecommunication providers, such as cell phone service providers, to improve cellular and data coverage to small geographic areas. They typically take the form of small antennas (3-4 feet tall) that are placed on existing infrastructure (such as utility poles) and are accompanied by equipment cabinets installed lower on the pole.

Federal and state law requires cities to allow small cell facilities in the public right of way, which includes streets and sidewalks. 

                               Standard Cell             Small Cell

Who regulates wireless towers?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the Commission is the federal agency responsible for implementing and enforcing America’s communications law and regulations.

The City of San Ramon cannot by law regulate wireless telecommunication. The City and all local governments, are required to comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations related to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which states: No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the regulations contained in this chapter concerning the environmental effects of such emissions.  All wireless devices installed in the City of San Ramon must meet all FCC regulatory requirements.

 Are there public health impacts?

While the City of San Ramon is not a public health agency, city staff track information provided by other agencies and organizations, such as the Federal Communications Commission and Occupational Safety and Health Administration. These resources may be helpful to people who wish to understand more about public health impacts.

What is a small cell facility?
A small cell wireless facility typically consists of a small antenna placed on utility poles or street lights along with small pole-mounted radios and other accessory equipment. Small cells are typically installed on utility poles or street lights. The antennas and equipment can be mounted on top or on the side of the pole. In some cases equipment boxes are installed on the ground or underground.

A typical small cell within the right-of-way is 50 feet or less in height, consists of one or more antennas and one or more equipment boxes. The antennas will be mounted either at the top of the pole or on the side. The equipment boxes will be attached to the pole, installed on the ground, or in the case of new streetlight installations, potentially in the base of the pole itself. While every system varies, the equipment boxes typically include a disconnect switch, and computers to control the antennas. Some wireless facilities may also feature an equipment box, on the same pole or in a box near the pole, that contains batteries used to provide temporary emergency power to the facility in case of a power outage.
What is public right-of-way?
Public right-of-way refers to a strip of land, which is used as a roadbed, either for a street, railway or other access way. The land is set aside as an easement or in fee, either by agreement or condemnation. The public right of way generally consists of the roadway, sidewalks and a strip of land behind the sidewalk (which varies by neighborhood).
What is the range of a small cell tower?
A number of factors dictate the range of small cells, including objects that can potentially block the signals such as trees or buildings. On average, these systems have an approximate range of 150 to 500 feet due to their low mounting height and low power output (either 66, 100, or 174 watts). For comparison purposes, a typical “macro” facility, with higher power usage (e.g. 10,000+ watts), and a higher mounting location, can have a range of a mile or two.
Can the City prohibit the installation of wireless telecommunication systems?
No. Under State and Federal law, telecommunications carriers have a right to install wireless facilities in the public right-of-way. The City, however, can regulate certain aspects of the design, location, and placement of those facilities.
What is 5G?
5G is the fifth generation of mobile communication networks. Most consumers now use 3G or 4G/LTE networks, which were introduced to the public in 2001 and 2009, respectively. AT&T shuttered its 2G system in early 2017. Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint have said they’ll continue to operate their 2G networks through 2019, 2020, and 2021, respectively. It is anticipated that 5G systems will use existing cell towers and small cells.
Where can I get more information about health concerns?
The FCC provides information on its safety standards and determinations on its website.

Questions regarding potential RF hazards from FCC-regulated transmitters can be directed to the Federal Communications Commission, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau:

455 12th Street SW
Washington DC, 20554
Phone: 1-888-225-5322 (1-888-CALL-FCC)