FCC Gives 5G Major Boost with New Agreement to Streamline Deployments of Wireless Infrastructure

Alexandria, VA, August 10, 2016 – The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Wireless Telecommunications Bureau on Aug. 8 announced the signing of an agreement that amends the Nationwide Programmatic Agreement for the Collocation of Wireless Antennas by eliminating historic preservation reviews for small facility deployments that do not have an adverse effect on historic sites and locations.

The agreement, which was signed by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), is a major step in streamlining the review of small cell and Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) deployments under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

The amendment, considered a continuation of the effort that started with the FCC’s 2014 Wireless Infrastructure Order, establishes new exclusions from the Section 106 review process for small wireless facility deployments like DAS and small cells with a focus on deployments in historic districts or on historic properties. It also provides greater clarity on attachments to non-utility infrastructure. WIA is reviewing the final agreement to assess the effect the new changes will have the activities of its members.

“The Wireless Infrastructure Association commends the FCC for its collaborative and ongoing effort to promote the efficient and responsible deployment of wireless broadband,” said Jonathan Adelstein, CEO and President of WIA. “This agreement shows how government entities and industry can work together to deploy wireless infrastructure while also protecting historic resources.”

The action will enable the next generation of wireless technologies by reducing a regulatory barrier to wireless infrastructure deployment.

In making the announcement, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said: “The interconnected world of the future will be the result of decisions we make today. That is why 5G is a national priority, and why today’s agreement to streamline small cell deployment will play a critical role in the successful deployment of next generation wireless service.”

On behalf of its members and the wireless infrastructure industry, WIA provided formal comments to the FCC as it was crafting the amendment.

“DAS and small cell networks play a crucial role in providing greater network capacity as data demand grows in communities across the United States,” WIA’s Adelstein said. “We must continue building and deploying all manner of wireless infrastructure, including macro towers, rooftops, DAS and small cells, to meet consumer bandwidth needs. We look forward to working with the government agencies and state historic preservation offices on further efforts to streamline wireless infrastructure deployment.”

With this new amendment, the FCC enables more efficient installation of DAS, small cells, and other small-scale technologies, which are all important components of the wireless infrastructure ecosystem that will support the exponential growth of data-intensive uses in coming years and facilitate the transition to 5G’s higher frequency bands. To be successful, 5G buildout will require increasing spectrum availability, ensuring backhaul connectivity, and facilitating infrastructure deployment.