AT&T has said that 5G networks will rely on dense networks of small cells, and the carrier has also said that it will launch mobile 5G in 12 U.S. markets this year. It isn’t saying which markets those will be, but it has dropped a hint by publicly praising three U.S. cities that have paved the way for small cells.
Indianapolis, Minneapolis and Little Rock, AK were singled out by AT&T for “the adoption and implementation of processes and cost structures that facilitate small cell deployment.” Joan Marsh, AT&T’s EVP for regulatory and state external affairs, said these three cities are all “leaning with us into the next generation of technologies.”
Small cell deployments often require access to the public rights of way, so city governments will be very involved in the development of 5G wireless networks. Carriers often target city-owned assets for the installation of radios and antennas, and may need to trench city streets to lay fiber for fronthaul and/or backhaul.
In Indianapolis, AT&T says more than 80 of its small cells are on air thanks to a streamlined permitting process and a maximum attachment rate of just $50 per node. AT&T has named Indianapolis as one of its 5G Evolution test markets.
Minneapolis is also a 5G Evolution test market, and AT&T has plans to install about 115 small cell nodes there. The state of Minnesota passed a small cell law in 2017 that established a 90-day process for cities to issue or deny small cell permits and set a statewide $150 per year small cell pole attachment rate, with an additional $25 per year maintenance fee.
Minnesota and Indiana are among a handful of states that have adopted small cell legislation. Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Kansas, and Virgina have also passed laws to facilitate small cell deployments.
Arkansas has not yet passed a state law regarding small cells, but Little Rock has set the maximum small cell permitting time at 60 days. AT&T says the city uses a simple two-page permitting form and will allow up to 25 small cells under one permit. Little Rock has capped permitting rates at $100 for five small cells and $50 for each additional small cell, with a recurring annual fee of $20, according to AT&T. The carrier plans to deploy more than 100 nodes in the city this year.