Carr: 5G Upgrade Plan Will Make 4-to-5G Antenna Swaps Easier

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FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr calls his 5G upgrade plan, “a further accelerator for 5G builds.” The declaratory ruling the agency has on its June meeting agenda stems from clarifications to Section 6409 of the Communications Act that the Wireless Infrastructure Association and CTIA asked for in 2019.

“This will be better [for] competition,” and make it “easier to add 5G antennas to an existing site,” he told Inside Towers in an interview Tuesday. “It will be good for first responders,” and to “make sure antennas go up efficiently,” he said.

The FCC implemented the rules to make swapping out 3G for 4G antennas easier in 2014. Now, the Commission intends to update them again to make 5G modification approvals faster. “My perspective is, this is about separating the wheat from the chaff. If someone wants to swap out an antenna this is the right track. We’re making it efficient to preserve a state/local review process,” he explained, noting this won’t be a new rule, but rather, the changes get more definitive about current regs on the books.  

“We think it’s a right-balanced approach,” Carr said, noting some cities and localities too sought clarification, while others don’t support the changes. “We’ve also seen some support from rural stakeholders,” he said, adding they believe it will bring 5G faster to their areas.

Asked how the vote may go he said: “I don’t anticipate any problems getting it across the finish line. I was able to write portions of it. This is a national imperative…to deliver 5G for big cities and everywhere.”

The declaratory ruling specifies when a 60-day shot clock to approve a modification application begins. It clarifies what equipment can go on an existing structure and that antenna co-location is allowed. It also specifies how a modification can increase a tower’s height to allow 20 feet of distance between antennas. The draft ruling also emphasizes the distinction between concealment elements and other conditions of approval that relate to aesthetics.     

Towerco executives speaking at WIA’s Connect (X): All Access last week praised the draft, saying it would bring more certainty to deployment timelines and cut costs, Inside Towers reported.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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