The timing of FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr’s announcement of the FCC’s 5G Update Order allowed the Wireless Infrastructure Association to perform a victory lap of sorts during its virtual Connectivity Expo trade show. The FCC plans to vote in June on the clarification of Section 6409 item, which is based on WIA’s petition to speed collocations, an effort that the association has been working on for the last year.
Although most communities are complying with Section 6409, WIA president and CEO Jonathan Adelstein said during the “View From the Top” session, there is a handful that weren’t following the spirit of the law and were making it difficult to do collocations. “That’s going to make a real change, smoothing collocations, especially as you go to 5G,” he said.
David Weisman, president and CEO of InSite Wireless Group and who was chairman of WIA when the association petitioned FCC, said the item is a recognition at the commission of the importance of collocation for macrosites, 5G equipment and small cells. “It adds on one more closure of the kinds of delays that we are finding in the tower business when we went in just to modify sites in a minor way, so we don’t get impediments that needlessly slow us down,” he said.
Jay Brown, Crown Castle president and CEO, commended WIA for its work in the proceeding, noting that delays in the collocation process can directly be associated with increased costs for tower companies. “By reducing the time to collocate, we are reducing the costs to our carrier customers and ultimately the cost to the consumer,” he said. “As we move into 5G, the ability to build these systems cost-effectively and efficiently. Knowing the timelines for that is critically important to all of our successes.”
The FCC will release a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) asking for comment on WIA’s Petition for Rulemaking that would streamline facility deployments of up to 30 feet in any direction outside the boundaries of a macro tower compound.
The NPRM will increase the use of existing assets, according to Steve Vondram, executive vice president of American tower and president of its U.S. Tower Division. He said it would lend predictability to the process and streamlining the timelines. “Knowing that we can expand those equipment compounds without a lot of regulatory barriers is going to make it easier to plan and easier to help our customers plan for backup power or the deployment of micro data centers,” he said.
Jeffrey Stoops, president and CEO of SBA Communications, noted that the FCC 5G Update Order is the first macrosite order from the FCC to follow the agency’s small cell orders in 2018, which are being challenged in the courts. The orders, he said, recognize the importance of towers to the deployment of 5G technology.
“It demonstrates a lot of courage and character at the FCC with the challenges underway against the small cell regulation,” Stoops said. “They have it in front of mind the importance of towers, which has been proven by the current pandemic health crisis.”
Alex Gellman, CEO of Vertical Bridge, said the 5G Update Order is a good example how WIA leads the industry and brings important regulatory issues to the attention of the FCC.