Small Cell and 5G Technology

small cel tower

Small Cell and 5G technology is one of the many technologies being used to advance Orlando’s goal of becoming a premier future-ready city. Small cells and 5G is the next generation of cellular technology, benefitting those who live, work or play in Orlando by exponentially increasing wireless data capacity and transfer speeds. As more small cell nodes are installed throughout the city, users will enjoy an improved cellular experience and connectivity.

What is a small cell?

In order to deliver 5G, the telecommunications industry is developing a new network of small wireless communication facilities that are installed on existing or new utility poles in the right-of-way, next to streets and roads. These new wireless communication facilities are called “small cells”. Small cell networks are composed of small radio antennas that are attached to multiple existing or new streetlight and utility poles. An individual small cell is called a node.  The individual nodes send data through fiber optic cable to a hub site, typically a traditional cell tower. The hub site sends the data out to the internet and broader communication networks.

Benefits of small cells

5G small cell installations will benefit property owners, residents, and businesses by exponentially increasing their wireless data capacity and transfer speed.

The city's role in small cell installations

In order to ensure small cells are visually appealing and fit into the aesthetic of the area, the first goal is for wireless service providers to use existing or replacement utility poles wherever possible when siting new small cell equipment. Where this is not possible, providers installing small cell nodes in the city will ensure nodes complement the existing aesthetic of the installation site and surrounding utility infrastructure.

Installations of small cells cannot be denied by the City of Orlando. The Federal Communications Commission’s rule FCC-18-133A1 and Florida State Statute 337.401 do not permit the City of Orlando to deny Wireless Service Providers and Wireless Infrastructure Providers access to city or county rights-of-way within the city limits. The Florida Public Service Commission has also issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity that declares telecommunications services in the right-of-way a certified utility.

Location of small cells

Small cell nodes are installed in the public right-of-way (ROW) and not on private property. Wireless Providers, as designated utilities, have broad discretion on the location of their infrastructure within the ROW and can choose, without notifying adjacent property owners, where to install each node. With the exception of pedestrian and vehicular safety, the city has very limited control over the location of each small cell.

Safety concerns

  • The city does not have any authority to deny the installation of small cell nodes based on health concerns, as stated by the Federal Communications Commission. The city recommends contacting your state representative or the FCC with individual concerns.

  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) studies and regulates the use of radio frequencies across the electromagnetic spectrum. The safety of radio waves has been extensively studied by government agencies and health groups that set standards continuously review this research. The World Health Organization (WHO) concludes, “Considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.”

  • The FCC preempts cities from denying any small cell permit based on health concerns or the environmental effects of radio frequencies under Section 332(c)(7) of the Communications Act.

  • For more information, please refer to the FCC’s Safety FAQ and the Safety Information page.
    Additional details can be found at the U.S Food and Drug Administration, the National Cancer Institute, and the World Health Organization.