March 22, 2019
A Year of Accelerated Wireless Infrastructure Investment .
One year ago today, the FCC took an important step for our 5G future. On that day, the agency took action to speed investment in 5G wireless networks by modernizing outdated federal regulations. Recognizing that the key building blocks of modern wireless networks have little to no impact on their environment, the FCC exempted small cells from federal historic and environmental reviews and streamlined those processes for all wireless siting deployments.
That was the first of three major reforms that the FCC took to update the rules for deploying wireless infrastructure in 2018.
In August, the FCC confirmed that cities have the right to decline a proposed wireless deployment, but clarified that moratoria—express, de facto, temporary or permanent—on siting requests are prohibited. In September, the FCC adopted guardrails for state and local reviews of small cell projects, while protecting municipalities’ rights to govern their property and recoup infrastructure-related costs.
We’d like to thank the FCC—and particularly Commissioner Carr—for taking these critical actions to streamline wireless infrastructure siting. As America’s wireless industry rolls out 5G networks, these steps—along with those of the 21 states that have adopted small legislation—couldn’t have been more timely or impactful.
That’s because small cells are the backbone of 5G networks. They are the size of backpacks or pizza boxes and can be deployed on streetlights, the sides of buildings, or even utility poles.
5G will require hundreds of thousands of small cells to unlock its transformational speeds and capacity. In fact, 80 percent of future infrastructure deployments will be small cells.
Today, the FCC and state reforms are helping speed infrastructure deployment and drive wireless investment. In 2017, around 13,000 small cells were deployed. Last year, over 60,000 small cells were deployed, according to one estimate. One national wireless provider reported turning on 27,000 small cells in 2018—an 800 percent increase from the year prior.
On a more operational level, after the FCC’s reforms of the federal review process a year ago, one wireless provider cleared 1,300 sites in 17 days and began clearing small cells five times faster than in the six months prior to the FCC’s action.
By addressing long delays, excessive fees, and other regulatory barriers, federal and state policymakers sought to accelerate wireless deployment while providing guidance to governments and industry stakeholders alike.
We’re now seeing that dynamic play out today. Not only is 5G here, but the U.S. has more commercial deployments than any other nation. Today, 5G networks are available in communities from Harris County, Mississippi to Indianapolis and Los Angeles—often months ahead of original estimates.
And of course, this is just the beginning. By the end of 2019, wireless providers will turn on more than 40 5G deployments in communities across the country.
Modernizing our infrastructure rules has provided a dramatic boost to our nation’s 5G-readiness. That’s especially important as other nations continue to compete for global 5G leadership. China, for instance, has been constructing cell sites at a rate of 460 a day—twelve times faster than us.
And as we seek to bring wireless to all Americans, the infrastructure reforms of the past year will help drive greater connectivity. One study found that reducing siting fees could reduce deployment costs by $2 billion, which could lead to an additional $2.3 billion in capital expenditures, with 97 percent going toward investment in rural and suburban areas.
Here’s to the first year of forward-thinking infrastructure reforms that were the right call for our 5G future.