When the next wave of mobile phone technology arrives, Tooele City Hall wants to make sure that its light poles don’t look like they’ve had over-sized toaster ovens strapped on top.
That next wave is the new 5G mobile network and wireless system, which is scheduled for initial rollout next year and to be operational across the U.S. by 2025. It will eventually replace the current 4G and 3G systems that serve mobile phones today.
5G is hailed by the telecommunications industry as faster, more reliable and more capable of moving large files of data than 4G and 3G systems. Consumers will be able to use their smart phones and related devices in ways they haven’t before, industry officials claim.
But the improvement comes with a catch: 5G uses high-frequency waves that support faster speeds and can carry more data, but those waves don’t travel as far as current wireless frequencies, according to industry officials.
As a result, more antennas — a lot of them and closer together — will have to be erected for 5G to reach consumers. According to industry information on the 5G rollout, about 300,000 new antennas will have to be installed across America.
All those new antennas coming soon caught the attention of Tooele City Attorney Roger Baker when two wireless companies called City Hall in 2017 about installing their antenna equipment on the city’s light poles.
His attention grew even more acute after the Utah Legislature passed Senate Bill 189 in last year’s General Session. SB 189 — called the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act — acknowledges that federal law requires cities to allow wireless companies access to public rights of way. The act also provides a state-wide process for compensating cities for that access.
Baker told the City Council last fall the federal mandate, and now a state mandate through SB 189, means the city has to allow wireless companies to install their antennas on city light poles in public rights of way.
In a recent interview, he said, “After that [SB 189’s passage], I thought ‘We have to get moving on this or we’ll end up with light poles that we don’t like.’”
Rogers explained that last May he began to research other cities across Utah to see what legislation they had adopted to prepare for and manage new wireless antennas on their light poles. When that didn’t net any results, his research went out of state.
Throughout last summer and last fall, he wrote one ordinance and six resolutions that deal with small wireless facilities deployment on light poles throughout Tooele City. At Baker’s request, the City Council last month unanimously passed the ordinance and five resolutions. The council unanimously approved the sixth resolution last week.
The combined seven pieces of legislation specify how wireless companies will be allowed to use city poles and install their equipment onto them, who is liable for that equipment, design standards, franchise agreements, and compensation to the city for the use of the light poles.
In terms of compensation, the city will get $50 per pole per year, plus the greater of 3.5 percent of gross revenue or $250 per small wireless facility.
“If the Fed and the state is going to mandate that we must allow small wireless antennas on our light poles, we’re going to set the terms,” Baker said.
The city attorney noted that when the new 5G system is rolled out, the City Council may have to consider additional legislative action regarding small wireless facilities deployment on light poles.