The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved an examination of the regulatory challenges surrounding small cell deployment. Small cells are currently being deployed by carriers and their partners in order to densify their current network coverage and the installations will ramp up as new technologies like 5G are rolled out. However, its installation is hampered by regulations and pushbacks from the local agencies due to concerns related to right-of-way issues, aesthetics, noise and others. The FCC examination will look into how the regulatory hurdles have affected the cost and timeline of the small cell rollout. In addition, the FCC will also seek suggestions on what small cell deployment applications can be considered as "deem granted" and what measures can be implemented to address the costs and delays related to historical preservation and environmental reviews.
While the importance of small cells in improving network coverage and the mobile data experience for subscribers are undeniable, there are certain issues related to its deployment that resulted in restrictions from local governments. Among these issues include instances of illegal installations and false claims that have angered local officials. Mobilitie, an infrastructure partner of wireless carriers, is a repeat offender, with reports of the company falsely claiming right to use public property in Boston, Los Angeles, and other cities, misrepresenting a tower erected in a historical district in Texas as a utility pole, and drilling holes in a property in upstate New York without permission. Other companies, like Crown Castle, have also seen setbacks to their deployment of small cells.
Aside from the actions of the wireless industry, there is also considerable pushback from local governing boards due to the legislative actions of the states. In at least 20 states, wireless carriers and their partners have supported bills to ensure quick and easy access to streetlights and utility poles. The local governments are not happy with these bills, saying that it removes certain authorities from the local agencies. Whether there are setbacks or not, small cell deployment is still expected to continue due to its advantages like improved latency and cell-edge coverage, which result in an improved service for the subscribers of wireless carriers that demand more mobile data than ever before.