Next Generation (5G) Communications
WHAT IS THE NEXT GENERATION (5G) OF WIRELESS TELECOMMUNICATIONS?
The field of telecommunications continues to evolve at a very fast pace. 5G is the 5th generation of mobile networks and the technology that is being developed to significantly increase data speeds and support the development of other new technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, smart homes, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things with billions of connected devices. Wireless access for homes and enhanced mobile services are likely to be the first applications using the new 5G technology, with the first mobile devices providing 5G connectivity expected to become available in 2020.
Unlike older wireless technology (3G, 4G) that rely on a network of microwave dish and panel antennas that can receive and send data over a large area (macro cells), 5G antennas are generally smaller in size (each antenna equivalent to the size of a tool cabinet) and have a more limited coverage area of less than 1,000 feet, meaning they are most effective where there is a line of sight between the antenna and the user or another antenna. This changes the infrastructure needed to support 5G telecommunications. Rather than utilize a network of antennas mounted on tall transmission towers spaced miles apart, 5G antennas require a dense network of closely-spaced antennas that can be installed on utility poles and buildings that are closer to the user base.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED RECENTLY?
In support of the goal to advance the country’s infrastructure for the next generation of wireless telecommunications facilities, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted new requirements on September 26, 2018 which streamlined and removed regulatory barriers that were perceived to inhibit the deployment of advanced wireless communications services, such as 5G. The FCC’s actions placed new limits on state and local government’s regulatory authority over small wireless infrastructure located within the public rights of way, established limits on the amount of fees that can be charged for use of publicly owned utility poles for the installation of telecommunications equipment (such as antennae) as well as the amount of fees that can be charged for the review of telecommunications facilities. Also included in the FCC’s action are more stringent deadlines for local government to process small wireless applications, and stricter limits on local government’s ability to require undergrounding of equipment and application of aesthetic considerations in their review of small wireless telecommunications facilities.
WHAT ARE MARIN COUNTY’S EXISTING REGULATIONS?
Under existing County policy and development regulations, any application to install a new telecommunications facility within the unincorporated areas of Marin County will require approval from the County. Existing County policy emphasizes the use of stealth design for antenna facilities, supports co-location of antennas to minimize visual clutter, and establishes preferences for siting telecommunications facilities in industrial and commercial areas over residential areas. Within the parameters established by the FCC, the County may place limits on the location and design of antenna and equipment that make up the antenna array. However, the County cannot deny a proposed telecommunications facility or require modifications based solely upon potential adverse health effects from exposure to electromagnetic field (EMF) emissions when the facility complies with the federal standard for permissible human exposure to EMF.
WHAT IS THE COUNTY DOING TO ADDRESS 5G?
The Board of Supervisors has appointed a subcommittee comprised of Supervisors Damon Connolly (1st District) and Dennis Rodoni (4th District) to work with County Counsel and staff from the Community Development Agency to identify potential amendments to the County’s policies and regulations in order to ensure that the County retains maximum regulatory control over new wireless telecommunications facilities, such as 5G, within the limits of federal law. We want to hear your opinions about this topic.
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Marin County Telecommunications Facilities Policy Plan
January 28, 2019
October 31, 2018