the evolution of wireless services, new cell sites are providing
coverage in smaller areas with greater capacity. Small Cell
Sites provide the same capacity-improving characteristics as the
original division of coverage into cells that allowed re-use of each
wireless channel. This
is also the path for some wireless carriers toward 5G and
ultra-fast broadband. Cellular carriers have proposed to
install tens of thousands of new cell sites, most of which are Small
Sites. These Small
Cell Sites, and those of us looking for them, face a unique set of
the New Small Sites:
Cell Sites Do Not Need to Be
As long as they are located within a carrier's licensed coverage area,
small cells can be located anywhere if they fulfill other
governmental requirements. Normally, there is no public
database of these small cells.
- Tower Companies
Don't Show Small Cell Site Locations
One of our most valuable databases, Cell
Site and Tower Companies, would normally install a small cell
site for a single customer and would not be able to offer that site to
other carriers, so they rarely advertise those locations.
Cell Site Locations May be
Available from Your Local Government
A local city or county may make their locations available publically
but you may need to search through records in the Building or Planning
Identity of a Small Cell Can't Be Easily Be Determined
visual inspection, large
cell sites have a number of clues about their owner, their frequency of
operation and their general identity. Small
Cell Sites are housed in the same enclosures used for all kinds of
wireless devices including public Wi-Fi, cellular, alarms and similar
uses and aren't obvious of their use. Our search of last
resort is to start walking around a location with a strong cellular
signal and hope that something with cellular antennas becomes visible.
However, if your city requires, say, an underground
installation and hidden antennas, there may be nothing to see.
- Small Cell Sites
Normally Transmit at Lower Power
making a technical search in the
these small cell sites operate at a lower power than full-sized cell
sites. You could be standing right under the site and not be
getting that strong of a signal.
- Security is Now
In the last century when the rebels wanted to overthrow the government
in power, they would take over the radio station. The modern
day version is to take over or neutralize the cellular networks.
The wireless carriers, the federal government and local
authorities may want to restrict access to the public of the locations
of cell sites.
- Seconday Sources
of Cell Site Location Information
Our traditional cell site resources also apply to small cell sites.
Facing Placement of Small Sites:
Municipal Approval Process is
as Difficult and As Slow as Larger Sites
Government entities want each cell site to be approved
individually. Wireless carriers want a "blanket" approval
across an entire community so they can install several sites
as part of a single project. Hurdles include agencies that ask for
exorbitant fees, require large amounts of paperwork, and require
wireless providers to adhere to aesthetic requirements that are not
applied to other facilities.
Located Closer to the Ground, Small
Cells Need to be More Aesthetically-Acceptable
equipment and antennas located closer to eye level, wireless
to be mindful of how their equipment looks and interacts with their
environment, with a balance among
economy, aesthetics, size and performance. While a small box
on a light pole might be acceptable, some municipalities and
owners prefer a site that is completely disguised or placed out of
Cells Can Fit in Small Spaces, But There are Limits
Sites can be located in hidden or out-of-the-way locations but they
still need to be accessible for maintenance and repair, they need to be
strategically-located to serve their customers, and they need a source
- Wireless Companies Have Asked the FCC to Help
The carriers have
asked for federal preemption of restrictive local requirements.
The FCC has not yet determined how, or if, they can provide
any way to facilitate the installation of new sites.