At its March 22 Open Meeting, the FCC will vote on a plan streamline small cell regulation. The changes would pertain to the federal historic and environmental review procedure that impacts wireless infrastructure deployments. The announcement was made by Commission Brendan Carr in a Feb. 28 speech at the Consumer Technology Association’s 5G Day.
Small Cell Regulation
The plan is to exclude small wireless facilities from environmental and historic procedures initially aimed at large macrocell deployments. This will be done by determining that these deployments are not federal undertakings or major federal actions. The upsides are significant: Carr said in the speech that such a plan could cut regulatory costs of small cell deployment by 80%, halve deployment time and expand deployments. Small cell deployments are a key enabler of the next generation of wireless technology.
Streamlining will also impact larger deployments. Section 106 of the Trial consultation process will address up-front fees, clarify the consultation process and adopt a clear timeline designating when deployments can start if a tribe doesn’t respond. This element of the reforms applies only to deployments off Tribal lands and outside of reservation boundaries.
Finally, the plan will revise the FCC’s approach to environmental reviews by adopting a “shot clock” for processing of Environmental Assessments (EAs) and clarifying that deployments EAs don’t need to be filed for deployments one foot above base flood elevation in floodplains.
All told, it seems like a good time to be in the small cell business. In December, the Small Cell Forum said that between 2015 and 2025 non-residential small cell deployments will grow at a CAGR of 36% and will reach 8.5 million deployed units at the end of that time. The research, which was done for the forum by Rethink Technology Research, said that 22 times the number of small cells deployed in 2015 will be deployed in 2025.