AT&T Applauds FCC’s Plans To Accelerate Wireless Small Cell Rollout

October 3, 2014 - Written By Jeremiah Nelson

The Federal Communications Commission is taking steps to speed up the rollout of wireless network infrastructure in the U.S. AT&T is pretty happy about what it thinks the FCC can do. AT&T’s VP of Federal Regulatory, Joan Marsh, wrote a blog post that went up yesterday. In the post she talks about standardizing the rules around wireless infrastructure is “essential”.

The FCC is including rules about low-power small cells. Small cells “use components that are a fraction of the size of traditional macrocells and can be installed–unobtrusively–on utility poles, buildings, and other existing structures.” He noted that the draft order crafts “a far more efficient process for small deployments that do not trigger concerns about environmental protection or historic preservation,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

AT&T is already committed to rolling out 40,000 small cells by the end of 2015. The new FCC rules will help define where small cells can be placed, among other things. Marsh is glad the FCC is taking steps to streamline the process. “AT&T has long argued that streamlining facility siting for low profile antennas and associated small cell equipment will create significant incentives to expedite broadband deployment, particularly in highly congested or hard to deploy areas. Protracted review of low profile small cell deployments is unnecessary and imposes unreasonable costs on licensees and structure owners alike who could otherwise invest those resources in network facilities,” she wrote.

The low-power small cells installed by AT&T and other wireless companies will increase coverage in big cities where regular macrocells can’t be placed. They will also help in suburban and rural areas that don’t want large cell towers breaking their landscapes. The placement of current cell towers is a long and costly process involving layers of bureaucratic red tape. If the FCC can streamline the rules for small cell deployment, we will all benefit. Marsh thinks that this will happen, writing, “we expect the item to clarify certain statutory definitions that create new opportunities for efficient infrastructure builds.”