Industry Needs Infrastructure Siting Certainty to Deploy 5G


5G deployment will need more than small cells. Macro towers and fiber will still be needed as well, said participants in a panel discussion yesterday on Capitol Hill, organized by the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA).

The low latency applications enabled by 5G, like telemedicine and IoT will be “huge,” said Rikin Thakker, Vice President of Telecommunications and Spectrum Policy for the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council. He’s also an engineering professor in the Master’s program at the University of Maryland.  

Crown Castle Legal VP Monica Gambino said 5G will enable many different kinds of surgery and autonomous cars, for example. “We’re here to help build that for the future.”  

She said companies need to prepare now for 5G deployment, noting that standards will be complete in 2020. “We’d like Congress to emulate” what some states have done to streamline regulations for broadband deployment, especially small cells, said Gambino. Twenty states passed bills in the last three years to expedite broadband deployment, she added. 

“In some cases, we were on the verge of litigation,” in states that have now eased broadband deployment regulation, said Gambino. Some states treat small cells as equivalent to the equipment that utilities can mount, with definitions like six cubic feet per antenna. Those kinds of changes will promote co-location, she said.  

American Tower Corporation VP State & Local Affairs Liz Hill said clear definitions are needed, such as specifying “what types of support structures” a piece of equipment can be attached to. Companies like AT&T, said Hill, need rules two years in advance. AT&T Assistant VP Public Policy Carl Povelites agreed, noting “We’re not talking about one macro tower” in a location but “hundreds and hundreds of small cells.”

An ideal location for small cells are the public Right-of-Ways, Gambino noted, adding that cable boxes and “all kinds of equipment” are already in those ROWs.

AT&T is working with the city of Indianapolis to deploy a small cell test array. The city allows small cell deployment within 45 to 60 days, with a minimum attachment rate of $50 per node, he said.

Fiber is crucial, too. “Everybody is deploying more fiber. Microwave backhaul will be crucial where there can’t be fiber,” said Thakker.

Moderator WIA President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein asked Povelites what kinds of 5G trials the carrier has underway. AT&T trials began in Austin, TX in October 2016 and expanded to include residences, a car wash and a church, said Povelites. In more recent trials in South Bend, IN, the signal penetration of the carrier’s 5G radios through glass and walls is good, he said.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

May 11, 2018

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