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To meet growing demand for mobile broadband and deploy next-generation 5G networks, CTIA supports policies at all levels of government that will accelerate infrastructure deployment.

Infrastructure

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To Meet America's Wireless Demands, Our Networks Are Evolving

Since 2010 when 4G networks were launched, America’s wireless industry has invested $226 billion to build state-of-the-art networks. To meet the demand for everything wireless, we’re enhancing today’s 4G networks and rolling out 5G. Faster, more responsive, and able to connect more devices, 5G will unlock innovation and investment, transforming every sector of our economy.

To make these next-generation networks a reality, our networks need more capacity. Enter small cells.

Small cells are about the size of a pizza box or backpack and are installed on utility poles, streetlights, and the sides of buildings. They complement existing cell towers by densifying wireless networks and providing the capabilities needed for next-generation networks. To handle growing mobile data demands, we need to install hundreds of thousands of small cells in the next few years.

 

Policy Positions

While small cells can be installed in as little as an hour or two, outdated rules designed for 200-foot cell towers and outright prohibitions meant it could cost thousands of dollars in fees and take more than a year to get government approval—if municipalities even acted on an infrastructure application at all. These barriers slow down the rollout of 5G and threaten America’s continued wireless leadership.

In 2018, the FCC enacted reforms to remove many of these barriers by:

  • Recognizing that the key building blocks of modern wireless networks have little to no impact on their environment and exempting small cells from historic and environmental reviews while streamlining these review processes for all wireless deployments.
  • Clarifying that while localities have the right to deny a siting application, state and local moratoria on wireless deployments are prohibited.
  • Building on the efforts of many states around the country that had already passed small cell legislation and providing guardrails for a national framework for siting practices to reflect our evolving wireless infrastructure, while respecting the important role that states and localities play in the siting process.

These federal guidelines and state and local siting reforms will speed up the rollout of 5G and provide clarity to municipalities and siting applicants alike, encouraging investment, jobs, and connectivity in communities across the country. In rural and hard-to-serve areas, these reforms may spur wireless investment and deployment, helping bridge the digital divide.

Small cell installation in Las Vegas
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Small cell installation in Las Vegas

Looking forward, the FCC can continue to evaluate additional reforms for macro and small facilities; states and localities can continue to update their siting rules—beyond the FCC’s baseline—to compete for 5G investment capital; and policymakers at the federal level can further streamline siting on federal properties and lands to expedite the deployment of next-generation wireless networks.

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