Fifth Generation (5G) Cellular Wireless Technology Information

  • What is Fifth Generation (5G) Cellular Wireless Technology?

5G is the 5th generation of mobile networks and the technology that is being developed to significantly increase data speeds and support the development of other new technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, smart homes, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things with billions of connected devices. Wireless access for homes and enhanced mobile services are likely to be the first applications using the new 5G technology, with the first mobile devices providing 5G connectivity expected to become available in 2020.

Unlike older wireless technology (3G, 4G) that rely on a network of microwave dish and panel antennas that can receive and send data over a large area (macro cells), 5G antennas are generally smaller in size (each antenna equivalent to the size of a tool cabinet) and have a more limited coverage area of less than 1,000 feet, meaning they are most effective where there is a line of sight between the antenna and the user or another antenna. This changes the infrastructure needed to support 5G telecommunications. Rather than utilize a network of antennas mounted on tall transmission towers spaced miles apart, 5G antennas require a dense network of closely-spaced antennas that can be installed on utility poles and buildings that are closer to the user base. In most cases 5G antennas are affixed to existing light poles and traffic light poles within the public right-of-way, including in residential districts. 

  • What Has Happened Recently?

In support of the goal to advance the country’s infrastructure for the next generation of wireless telecommunications facilities, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted new requirements that became effective on January 14, 2019. These requirements streamline and remove regulatory barriers that were perceived to inhibit the deployment of advanced wireless communications services, such as 5G.  The FCC’s actions:

  • Placed new limits on state and local government’s regulatory authority over small wireless infrastructure located within the public rights of way;
  • Established limits on the amount of fees that can be charged for use of publicly owned utility poles for the installation of telecommunications equipment (such as antennae) as well as the amount of fees that can be charged for the review of telecommunications facilities;
  • More stringent deadlines (“Shot Clocks”) for local government to process small wireless application

60 Days for Applications on Existing Structures

90 Days for Applications on Entirely New Installations

  • Stricter limits on local government’s ability to require undergrounding of equipment and application of aesthetic considerations in their review of small wireless telecommunications facilities.
  • What Can You Do to Address 5G Technology?

Under the FCC’s Order Accelerating Wireless and Wireline Broadband Deployment, local governments have until April 15, 2019 to publish the aesthetic considerations that the municipality will impose when reviewing siting applications for small wireless facilities. If not, they may lose the right to have any input on design of these facilities. It has been stated,these aesthetic considerations may be contained within a larger policy or local law that the municipality may adopt to articulate all the requirements, procedures, and fees associated with reviewing wireless siting applications. Currently, the FCC’s Order is being challenged in federal court, it is advisable that your local law leave room for flexibility if the Order is changed or reversed in the future.

According to the article, “Small Cells. Big Problems. An update on New Regulations Affecting Small Wireless Facility Siting,” written by Rebecca Ruscito, NYCOM Counsel, local governments should consider the following:

  • Adopt polices that articulate ways in which applications will be reviewed and aesthetic considerations will be imposed is paramount. Without articulated standards published in advance of their imposition, service providers will challenge the propriety of the regulations and may successfully avoid compliance with local policies under the new rule.
  • Local governments must determine the actual costs they incur related to the installation and occupancy of small wireless facilities in the ROW in order to enforce any application and use fees exceeding the presumption established by the FCC.
  • Resources Available to Address 5G Technology (Please Click on Article and/or Law)


Sample Laws:

The sample local laws listed below provide guidance for a municipality to draft their own local law, any proposed law should be reviewed thoroughly by your municipal attorney.

*Information Sources: NYCOM and Marion County, MD