Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein discussed the need for additional equipment at the base of cell towers and the problems the industry is facing deploying backup generators and mobile edge compute in the tower compound, in his keynote address at the AGL DC Summit in National Harbor, Maryland last week.
Deploying backup generators in the compound surrounding cell towers is critical to public safety, allowing cell towers to stay online in the face of natural disasters such as hurricanes. These compounds are also key to the deployment of mobile edge computing centers, which will be a critical component of 5G in the future.
“When tower sites lose power, first responders can’t communicate or coordinate their response and people can’t find their loved ones,” Adelstein said.
WIA petitioned the FCC in August to clarify its rules by promoting collocations on existing wireless facilities. As part of its request, WIA has asked the FCC to correct barriers to broadband deployments being created because of different treatment of compound expansions around wireless facilities.
“You can do a drop and swap without going through federal rules, but because of a quirk in the rules, you really can’t install a generator if it expands the compound, even by a foot without doing through all sorts of hellish requirements and red tape,” Adelstein said. “It discourages the use of the infrastructure. It slows us down getting generators sited. It slows down the process for deploying a small cell hub or an edge data center at a tower. We are getting ready for 5G. We have to make sure these problems are eliminated.”
WIA is looking to Section 6409(a) of the Spectrum Act of 2012 to justify its tower compound initiative. Section 6409(a) promotes the deployment of new equipment on existing infrastructure by allowing collocation without additional zoning requirements.
“The FCC has the authority under Section 6409 to define the rules to deal with some of the abuses that we are seeing,” he said. “We asked the FCC to do a rulemaking that specifies that collocations causing compound expansion within 30 feet qualify for treatment under Section 6409.”
Adelstein added that not all municipalities are impeding collocations at cell towers. Many are acting in accordance with the law, he said, but some are determined to slow or stop wireless buildouts.
“A lot of localities understand that Section 6409 is established law. It says they have to approved a collocation on an existing wireless facility and they don’t have to rezone it,” he said. “But there are some who will make up any excuse they can to slow us down. They come up with all sorts of crazy schemes to say that Section 6409 doesn’t apply. One locality even said if there is graffiti on the cell site, Section 6409 doesn’t apply. Some say that Section 6409 doesn’t apply to building permits and concealment, which is just not true.”
WIA is holding its board meeting this week in Washington DC and board members will be meeting with FCC commissioners to discuss the petition.