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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Small cell information provided to City Council in January 27 agenda packet

City staff have provided City Council with an information only report regarding small cell wireless facilities in the Jan. 27 City Council Pre/Post Briefing Meeting Agenda. There will not be a formal hearing or discussion on this topic. An overview on small cell wireless is provided below. More details are available in the memo provided to City Council and in these frequently asked questions.

In response to new developments in wireless technology and enabling legislation from both federal and state lawmakers, telecommunications providers have been making application to localities across the nation to place cellular wireless facilities into public rights of way.

The newest (“5th generation”) of wireless connectivity is referred to as 5G.  This technology can transmit and receive wireless data at a capacity of 10 gigabits per second—roughly one hundred times faster than 4G or 4G LTE technology can hope to provide.  In several large cities around the United States (including Denver), very limited test areas have been established to continue refining future deployment concerns.  As a part of this effort, the city has been receiving applications from wireless carriers who are seeking to place small cell facilities in the city’s public rights of way.  The city has already been receiving input from citizens, business owners, and other interested or concerned parties, who are becoming vocal as the new facilities begin to appear.

Major networks provide users with connectivity to wireless communication, including phone calls, texting, access to the Internet and other applications through the use of traditional "macro" facilities (cell towers).  Small cell facilities provide supplemental support for these macro networks, helping to carry the ever-increasing load, and allowing for more users to have better connections, faster uploads and downloads, fewer “dropped” calls or interruptions, and more speed, generally.  Small cell facilities are called such due to their lower level of functionality, range and capacity.  Small cell installations cannot replace macro installations—they can only augment the performance of the larger sites, and help to improve service in existing coverage areas.

In a typical scenario, a carrier will apply to both the city and Xcel Energy to replace an existing streetlight with a combination streetlight / small cell wireless pole. Most streetlights in the city are owned by Xcel Energy. The new poles will have the same general appearance, color, finish, and height as the old poles, but will be bigger in diameter, have a large round cabinet built into the base of the pole, and feature an enclosed antenna at the top of the pole that increases the overall height of the pole by roughly five feet. Staff also works with pole fabrication companies and Xcel Energy to develop poles that can replace existing “specialty” poles within the city. Presently, city regulations require that the spacing of poles utilized by the same carrier be at least 250 feet apart.

 

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