Arlington is preparing its commercial corridors for the next generation of mobile broadband technology — 5G. The impact? Mobile download speeds for movies, video games, apps and more up to 100 times faster than today.
The benefits would go well beyond individual users, with faster speeds and improved reliability helping businesses, healthcare and even government operations, including education and transportation. It all supports the County’s overall smart growth strategy by preparing our major corridors for the future of mobile connectivity.
Small Wireless Facilities
5G and next generation technologies are possible through the attachment of small wireless facilities (SWF), essentially small antennas, on utility poles or streetlights in high usage areas — mostly high-density commercial corridors.
This new technology complements existing cell towers by adding bandwidth and bringing signal closer to users. This ultimately boosts download speeds and helps reduce dropped calls and other interruptions.
The County has been working with several wireless carriers to make the new small wireless facilities as physically and visually unobtrusive as possible. When determining where to attach these facilities to public infrastructure, the County has worked to balance aesthetics with operational, maintenance and public safety needs. Streetlights, such as “cobra” or “Carlyle-style,” have emerged as the best structures in the best locations to deploy this new technology.
Arlington is also supporting the deployment of these small wireless facilities by streamlining the permitting process for carriers. Between July 2017 and March 2019, the County granted more than 85 permits for facilities on private property or on private utility or streetlight poles in the public right-of-way. Most belong to Dominion Energy, Verizon or the Virginia Department of Transportation.
The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has played a key role in the rapid deployment of these facilities. Last year, the FCC ordered localities to expedite their review and approval of small wireless facilities and capped the fees localities can charge to cover the cost of review for using the public right-of-way.
The County Board will consider changing Chapter 22 of County Code to remove the current prohibition on installation of small wireless facilities on County-owned structures in the public right-of-way. At its June 2019 meeting, the Board approved a request to advertise a public hearing, which will take place July 13, 2019.
The County will also be considering a template Master License Agreement (MLA) that will specify the terms and requirements for private companies to attach to the County-owned street lighting.