MD Small Cells Could Fall Behind Nearby States

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Local wireless industry officials are concerned Maryland will be left behind when it comes to 5G readiness. Speaking to the Greater Baltimore Committee last week, Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) State Government Affairs Counsel Arturo Chang, said more than 20 states have passed legislation to ease deployment of small cells. That includes nearby Virginia, West Virginia and Delaware. In contrast, if Maryland isn’t able to finalize similar legislation soon, the state could end up becoming a “doughnut hole” of next gen wireless tech readiness in the region, Chang told attendees of the GBC panel discussion.

Wireless industry officials and municipalities in the Free State continue to debate how much control localities should have to determine how and where small cells are deployed. County governments want more control over costs and details of small cell deployments, while the wireless industry wants more say over projects. Legislation to expand small cell infrastructure in Maryland died in the General Assembly last year, reports the Baltimore Business Journal.

Two competing measures were introduced this year, Inside Towers reported. It appears the issue will be tabled, as this 90-day session of the General Assembly winds down. Instead, the issue will be considered instead during a study this summer, reported the Baltimore Business Journal.  

GBC Panelist LaTara Harris, a lobbyist for AT&T, said she’s disappointed the small cell issue is being delayed again. Data use has grown exponentially in the past several years, as more people rely on mobile devices, according to Harris. AT&T has seen a 470,000 increase in customer data use since 2007.

Crown Castle title Richard Rothrock, said small cells have been deployed in Baltimore and Ocean City, according to the Baltimore Business Journal. Between 600 to 650 of those are in Baltimore. Carriers and municipalities have worked out arrangements for these on a case-by-case basis until more consistent regulations can be passed, Rothrock said.

Chang emphasized legislation is needed to provide a clear framework and faster regulatory process to speed small cell deployment to support 5G. Full deployment of 5G networks may still be a couple of years away, but that time will fly by quickly, said Harris.

April 1, 2019           

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