At its open meeting next Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on a crucial and long-awaited infrastructure Order that will clarify siting rules for wireless deployment, which includes 5G. The Order, called the “5G Upgrade Order,” includes a declaratory ruling and notice of proposed rulemaking that would eliminate siting delays, promote collocation, and accelerate wireless network builds by clarifying rules for upgrading equipment on existing infrastructure.
What is the 5G Upgrade Order?
The vote on June 9 will be the culmination of years of work led by WIA, the FCC, and Congress to update rules governing macro and other wireless infrastructure deployments, which will play an important role in the buildout of 5G networks across America. This is a big step that our country can take now to pave the way for 5G deployment when Americans rely on connectivity more than ever. The “5G Upgrade Order” would make key clarifications for wireless deployment.
- Sets a clear demarcation as to when the 60-day shot clock for local approval begins
- Clarifies which new equipment qualifies for streamlined approval
- Ensures local governments cannot misuse concealment and aesthetic conditions to limit the ability to quickly upgrade concealed infrastructure
It also asks for public comment on what activity related to modification can occur outside of a wireless site.
So, what does this mean for infrastructure providers?
These clarifications allow for expedited infrastructure deployment in the following ways:
- Provides more flexibility for providers in upgrading equipment on existing towers
- Makes it easier to site by limiting the ability of local governments to deny applications based on changes to concealment elements
- Accommodates for backup generators and advanced equipment like edge data centers for tower sites (expected later this summer)
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr has been leading the commission in working toward 5G upgrades. He announced at WIA’s Connect (X): All Access that the FCC would vote on this important Order. In a press release following the event, the commissioner said, “America’s tower crews and telecom techs are building the strongest 5G network in the world. Their efforts already are creating new jobs and opportunities in towns across the country. By streamlining tower upgrades, we will encourage even more investment in our communities and new service to connect families.” He continued saying, “Rural America will benefit from new competition for their broadband dollars. First responders will benefit from dedicated networks and expanded capacity. And all Americans will benefit from world-leading wireless service as existing towers are upgraded to 5G.”
How long have we been waiting for this Order?
In 2012, Congress passed the SPECTRUM Act, which included provisions to promote collocation. Section 6409(a) of the act, promotes collocation and network upgrades by fast-tracking these nonsubstantial modifications to existing towers. More specifically, it requires local governments to approve modifications to wireless infrastructure that do not substantially change the size of the towers or base stations. Section 6409 was ground-breaking and has led to expedited and streamlined wireless infrastructure deployment.
In 2014, the FCC adopted rules unanimously on a bipartisan basis clarifying many of Section 6409(a)’s terms in an effort to advance Congress’s goal of facilitating rapid deployment of wireless networks, which helped the U.S. lead the world in 4G service rollout. Since that time, some of the rules have proved to be ambiguous and have led to disagreements. The 5G Upgrade Order clears up some of those discrepancies, so our members can upgrade networks more expeditiously.
Watch the open meeting online June 9 at 10:30 a.m. ET at https://www.fcc.gov/general/live