Small Cells Project

As wireless communication technology continues to advance, wireless service providers are working to expand 5G networks throughout the United States.  This requires deployment of small cell technology (small wireless facilities) which will make up the infrastructure of 5G networks and help provide better wireless service coverage throughout the United States.  In September 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed a declaratory ruling titled “Accelerating Wireless Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment” to support the proliferation of small cell technology.  The ruling restricts the authority of state and local governments to regulate small wireless facilities, limits fees that can be assessed by municipalities on the review of applications for these facilities, and places new limitations on discretionary aesthetic criteria that cities can apply to these facilities.  The ruling creates a time frame (“shot clock”) for review of new application for small wireless facilities.  The City of Fremont is adhering to this Federal regulation to allow Wireless Service Providers to process new applications for small cells within the public right-of-way.

City Council Agenda for Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. What i
s a small cell facility?

“Small Wireless Facilities” (aka small cells) are a type of wireless technology for broadband infrastructure that will add capacity and improve coverage to the City of Fremont neighborhoods. Small cell facilities are compact, relatively small and cover much smaller geographic areas than the traditional macro cell towers. 

2. What are the physical components of a small cell facility?

A small cell facility generally consists of a small antenna, radio, and other accessory equipment on an existing facility within the public right-of-way. The antennas will be mounted near the top of poles; other supporting equipment such as a disconnect switch, smart meter, etc. will be installed further down the pole. Each facility may differ slightly depending on the wireless provider. 

3. What is the benefit of small cell technology?

Small cell facilities can improve network connectivity for residents, businesses, first responders, and for visitors who are using the wireless networks.  In addition to providing better wireless service in areas with spotty coverage, small cell technology will help wireless service providers increase capacity and transition from 4G to a 5G network easier to meet the increasing demand for faster and more reliable wireless services.

4. What is the range of a small cell facility?

Small cell facilities have an approximate range of 150 to 500 feet due to their low mounting height and low power output.  Their range is also affected by trees and buildings which can potentially block the signals.

5. What governs small cell deployment?

Small cell deployment is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which has placed limits on the regulatory authority of cities.

6. Are there any health and safety concerns to be aware of?

Wireless antennas are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  Small cell antennas transmit very low levels of radio waves compared to traditional macro cell antennas.  The approved radiated emission levels from small cells meet the current accepted health and safety guidelines.  The safety of radio waves has been extensively studied and government agencies and groups that set standards continuously review this research.  For more information, please refer to the FCC’s Safety FAQ.  Additional details can be found at the U.S Food and Drug Administration, the National Cancer Institute, and the World Health Organization

7. How are Radio Frequency (RF) emissions regulated?

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 contained provisions relating federal jurisdiction to regulate human exposure to RF emissions from certain transmitting devices.  In particular, Section 704 of the Act states that, “No state or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commission’s regulations concerning such emission.”  More information on FCC’s policy for Tower and Antenna Siting is available from the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and in the Local Government Official’s Guide to Transmitting Antenna RF Emission Safety 

For every small cell site within the City of Fremont, the telecommunication applicant is required to submit an RF report for each small cell site.

8. Are these facilities subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) or additional environmental review?

No. Installation of small cell facilities on existing street light poles are categorically exempt from CEQA pursuant to sections 15301, 15302, and 15303 of the Guidelines for CEQA.

9. Can the City of Fremont prohibit the installation of small cells?

No. Under state law, wireless service providers have a right to install small cells within the public right-of-way, even on separate poles.  In addition, the Federal Communications Commission has interpreted the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to preempt cities and other local agencies from denying wireless providers access to government owned structures in the public right-of-way.  As a result, the City can merely standardize the use of the public right-of-way and its facilities in the public right-of-way, rather than prohibit the use by wireless providers.

10. What is the Public Right-of-Way?

The public right-of-way (ROW) can be generally described as the surface, space above and below of any public street, including the sidewalk, designated for a vehicular, bicycle or pedestrian use by the public that is maintained and regulated by the City of Fremont.  The public ROW is owned in fee, easement or other title, and the edge of the public ROW is often the property line for an abutting property.

11. Who do these small cell facilities serve and which companies own and operate them?

The wireless facilities installed on street light poles and wooden utility poles are primarily intended to serve customers of wireless service providers licensed by the FCC to operate in the State of California.  Currently, within the City, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint are the dominant wireless service providers.  Other companies may also install and own small cell facilities and lease them to the above-mentioned wireless providers.  Some of these companies are Crown Castle, ExteNet Systems, and Mobilitie.  All wireless services providers are authorized by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to install and operate facilities within the PROW.

12. What is the process that a wireless service provider must go through in order to install a small cell facility on a City of Fremont street light pole?

A wireless service provider would first have to execute a Master License Agreement (MLA) with the City, pursuant to a MLA template adopted by the City Council.  This MLA allows a wireless service provider to apply for Small Cell License (SCL) Agreement for the installation of a small cell facility on a City owned street light pole.  After the SCL is executed, the wireless service provider has 45 days to submit an application for Regulatory Approvals (Ministerial Design Review & Encroachment Permit)with the Public Works Department (PWD).  Planning and Engineering shall confirm that the proposed wireless facility complies with the approved SCL Permit obtained from City and in general also conforms to the City’s Wireless Design Guidelines and all City standards for construction within public ROW. Upon approval of these regulatory application, the wireless service provider can then proceed to install the small cell facility at the subject location, subject to inspection and final acceptance by City Public Works Inspector.


13. What is a Master License Agreement?

A Master License Agreement (MLA) is the agreement between a wireless service provider and the City to allow for wireless facilities to be installed on city owned and operated streetlights.  The MLA specifies the terms, conditions, procedures, and other requirements that the wireless service provider must adhere to in order to install small cell facilities on the City’s facilities.

14.
Will the community be notified of where small cells are being installed?

Wireless service providers will be required to notify the owners, tenants, manager, or property manager for properties located immediately adjacent to the street light pole or utility pole upon which a small cell facility is being installed. If the streetlight pole is located on a common parcel line, then both the properties on either side shall be notified by the wireless provider a few days prior to start of construction. The format & content of the notification shall be approved by the City.

15. Can the City of Fremont prohibit the installation of small cells?

No. Under state law, wireless service providers have a right to install small cells within the public right-of-way, even on separate poles.  In addition, the Federal Communications Commission has interpreted the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to preempt cities and other local agencies from denying wireless providers access to government owned structures in the public right-of-way.  As a result, the City can merely standardize the use of the public right-of-way and its facilities in the public right-of-way, rather than prohibit the use by wireless providers.

16. Can the City prohibit the deployment of small cell facilities on wooden utility poles owned by PG&E?

No
. Under State law, telecommunications carriers have a right to install wireless facilities on wooden utility poles in the PROW.  In addition, the Federal Communications Commission has interpreted the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to preempt cities and other local agencies from denying wireless providers access to government owned structures in the public right-of-way.  As a result, the City can merely regulate the use of facilities in the public right-of-way, rather than prohibiting the use by wireless providers.

17.
Does the City prefer wireless small cell facilities on wooden utility poles?

No. The City prefers wireless services providers to locate small cell facilities on street light poles since the entire city is designated as an undergrounding district and eventually all utility facilities in the City will be required to be placed underground.  As a result, the wooden utility pole will no longer be needed for utility lines and the only poles in the public right-of-way will be streetlights.  Moreover, installations on street light poles are visually less intrusive than small cell facilities mounted on wooden utility poles.

18. What aesthetic standards will be applied to small cells?

Wireless facilities are subject to the rules and guidelines provided in the Citywide Design Guidelines, Chapter 4, Section 6. Right-of-Way Installations. The Guidelines can be downloaded from the following web page: https://fremont.gov/1263/Design-Guidelines

19. Where are existing cell towers? 

Information on all antennas registered with the FCC can be found at: 
http://www.antennasearch.com/sitestart.asp


Contact Information

Kei Louie
(510) 494-4727
Email