Small Cell Deployment Challenges and Opportunities

The ePole is a small cell alternative for your utility!

Mobile operators are deploying small cells as a way to expand data capacity and extend coverage in their networks. Communities who desire this additional capacity and coverage would prefer existing utility and streetlights be replaced versus building new infrastructure in the municipal right of way. The challenge for utilities is deploying and servicing these small cells safely across their networks. However, there are great opportunities to be had with designing new standards that expedite the process. 

Small Cell Challenges

  • Due to the amount of small cell equipment being installed on existing utility poles and streetlights, standard joint use agreements do not adequately cover the utilities. Therefore, new joint use agreements will need to be executed;
  • Increased risk of unqualified personnel working in the electric space;
  • Small cell equipment attached to the pole effects the stability and strength of the pole, make-ready costs, safety and aesthetics; 
  • Utilities will come under pressure to perform the make-ready and to repair service outages in a timely manner as residents and businesses become more dependent on wireless communications. 

Small Cell Opportunities

  • By being proactive, the utility has the opportunity to create a standard for small cell installations that meets NESC, ANSI and TIA 222 REV G requirements. The ePole is a standardized design that can replace electric utility poles and street lights, meeting these requirements;
  • An ePole has a higher strength-to-weight ratio versus alternative wood, concrete or steel poles, reducing shipping, handling and installation costs;
  • Mobile operator equipment is safely stored inside a pole-mounted enclosure at the base of the ePole, eliminating the risk of unqualified personnel working near the electric space;
  • The ePole’s stealth design allows it to blend in with existing street lighting, which will appeal to local residents and businesses. 

Small cell deployments are happening. The ePole is an enabler to expedite the process and improve utility safety and support smart energy applications.

The ePole provides a new solution for the FCC orders affecting your municipality and utility.

The increasing demand for better mobile coverage and data capacity has been addressed by the FCC with several orders including Order 14-153 and 11-50, allowing mobile network operators the ability to attach small cells and other wireless facilities to community’s utility poles, light poles and road signs.

The good news is that municipalities may continue to require mobile operators to comply with “generally applicable” building, structural, electrical and safety codes with regard to the pole attachments. In addition, municipalities have the right to require that all small cell installations are architecturally and aesthetically consistent with their community. However, the order does state that municipalities cannot unreasonably delay these deployments by imposing a moratorium.  Electric utilities can also require mobile operators to comply with structural, electrical and safety standards that are consistent with the electric utility industry.

Not only has the FCC changed how utilities regulate what gets attached to their poles, but they have also made it easier for mobile operators to attach what they want and where they want it, even allowing them access to pole tops.

For municipalities, the FCC Orders are going to affect the look and feel of communities across the country and not necessarily for the better. Cities are starting to see pole attachments pop up everywhere, changing the aesthetics of the town. On a positive note, municipalities have the ability to change their town ordinances to better reflect what they want their community to look like while still installing small cells to improve their mobile coverage and data capacity. By writing ordinances in such a way as to require a standardized stealth solution…municipalities can and should take control over the situation at hand.

The ePole® provides this standardized stealth solution that not only benefits municipalities, but also electric utilities and mobile network operators. The ePole is an aesthetically pleasing, environmentally friendly, safe and economical solution to these problems and it is the ONLY integrated small cell that can be used as a replacement for utility distribution poles. The ePole brings a standard solution for an installation that not only meets the requirements from the FCC Orders, but also those of the utility industry.