rural wireless tower

An FCC antenna rule change adopted last week should make it easier for fixed wireless providers to serve mobile home parks, assisted living facilities and other locations where a single hub antenna serves multiple customers.

The commission traditionally has allowed users to deploy small wireless antennas known as over-the-air reception devices (OTARDs) on their own property. But those rules until now did not apply to such devices if they were used primarily as hubs to distribute service to multiple customer locations – a network architecture known as “hub and relay.”

Fixed wireless providers, also known as wireless internet service providers (WISPs), traditionally have focused on rural areas, but some are deploying service in metro areas. OTARD restrictions have become increasingly critical as fixed wireless providers have been deploying access points more densely because they are using higher-frequency spectrum, because they are targeting more densely populated areas or for other reasons.

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FCC Fixed Wireless Antenna Rules

The rule changes apply to hub and relay antennas that distribute broadband-only fixed wireless services to multiple customer locations, regardless of whether they are primarily used for this purpose, provided that the antennas satisfy other rules, including size limitations, the FCC explained in a press release.

“[U]pdating the commission’s infrastructure policies is a key component of accelerating deployment of next-generation networks” and “provides regulatory parity between the facilities of wireless internet service providers and those of other service providers,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement.

“Our rule change reflects the realities of modern network architecture . . . while preserving the rights of property owners or lessees to freely negotiate the terms of antenna placements,” he continued. “Extending OTARD protection to qualifying broadband-only antennas will remove unreasonable barriers to deployment erected by third parties, such as local zoning laws and private restrictive covenants as well as excessive permitting fees.”

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association was instrumental in bringing about the OTARD rule change and hailed the FCC decision in a press release.

“Many wireless networks depend on good lines of sight and our members will use any safe structures to do that – that is, where they’re available,” said Louis Peraertz, vice president of policy for WISPA. “The rule change vastly increases the ability of our members to use customer locations to serve additional nearby customers in areas that lack other vertical infrastructure.”

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