5G and Small Cell Wireless Facilities

5G and Small Cell Wireless Facilities

5G is the fifth generation in mobile technology and will help speed up internet and cell phone data beyond current 4G services. To make this happen, wireless service providers need to put up more wireless infrastructure. 5G frequencies don't travel as far as 4G frequencies, so instead of building big towers, wireless providers are putting up smaller antennas called "small cells.” These are much shorter, usually less than 30 feet tall. To provide coverage for the areas they serve, they must be installed closer together than traditional cell towers. Equipment for these can usually fit on infrastructure like streetlights or utility poles and usually need a direct line of sight to the next antenna or small cell to work effectively.

The Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act passed in 2018 lets wireless companies put small cell equipment in public rights-of-way and on private property throughout Illinois. The law doesn't give municipalities control over where or how many small cell facilities there are and also limits how much cities can charge for permits and how long they can take to evaluate applications. There are provisions of the code that permits some Village input in how 5G is installed.

The Village of Riverside has in place General Guidelines and Small Wireless Facility Design, Stealth and Concealment Standards (Design Standards) that include certain requirements for installers and owners of small wireless devices and related equipment. Review of these standards and consultation between staff and the installer’s representative are recommended to allow for a more streamlined and effective application and review process.  

 Design and Installation Standards 

Village of Riverside General Guidelines and Small Wireless Facility Design, Stealth and Concealment Standards (PDF)

At the May 4, 2023 meeting, the Village Board of Trustees approved revisions to the Village Ordinance and Design Standards. Changes and updates to the Code are a result of recent changes in state law and included other provisions to clarify the existing regulations permitted to the Village by the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act.  

See Ordinance 4057 approving Code of Ordinance changes (May 4, 2023 Approval) 

See Resolution 23-36 approving updates to General Guidelines (May 4, 2023 Approval) 

The Village’s Role

According to state law, much of the regulatory authority over small cell wireless facilities is outside of Village control. Here is what the Village can and cannot do to oversee this new technology.

The Village can require wireless service providers to:

  • Get a permit to install a small cell wireless facility on a utility pole.
  • Provide structural integrity specifications for each proposed site.
  • Provide photos/photo simulations and exact locations of streetlight or utility poles where small cell wireless facilities would be installed.
  • Limit the height of a small wireless facility to 10 feet above the structure on which the equipment is mounted. Riverside’s standard is a minimum of 12 feet above.
  • Comply with safety standards for construction in the right-of-way as well as standards for wiring, cabling, grounding, streetlight or utility pole extensions and signage.
  • Ensure small cell wireless facilities do not interfere with public safety communications or other utilities; permits may be terminated by the Village if interference occurs.
  • Require the removal or repair of interfering, malfunctioning, and non-functioning devices within three days.

The Village cannot:

  • Enact a ban on small cell wireless facilities.
  • Require zoning review for locations of small cell wireless facilities if they are on any property zoned for commercial or industrial use, or if they are in the right-of-way – even in residential areas.
  • Deny an application to prevent a small cell wireless facility at a specific site, unless it fails to comply with standards for location, size, surface area, height or construction safety, or causes interference with public safety communications. Riverside’s standards are developed in a way that creates specific guidance for these characteristics while also adhering to the applicable laws.
  • Deny a proposed location for a small cell wireless facility without providing an alternate location within 200 feet.
  • Grant exclusive rights to any one wireless service provider to install small cell wireless facilities in Village right-of-way.
  • Regulate the level of radio frequency emissions. This is the responsibility of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Plan Review and Inspections

The Village of Riverside has a comprehensive plan review process to ensure the safe and responsible installation of small cell facilities with minimal impact on the community.

Village staff members have anticipated locations that could appropriately site small wireless equipment. In Riverside, installations on the historic gas street lamps are NOT allowed. The Design Standards state that location of equipment on an existing utility pole is preferred above other types of installations.  Staff also collaborates with wireless service providers to identify optimal sites that do not interfere with public safety communications or utilities. This preliminary consultation helps all parties understand the interests of the Village to protect infrastructure and Riverside’s historic landmark status and the needs of the wireless provider, early in the process.

After an application is submitted, it is reviewed by staff and the Village’s hired technical consultant to ensure compliance with state and federal laws, review each proposed facility's electrical safety, structural integrity, and aesthetics. Upon approval, the wireless service provider receives a permit to commence work.

This entire process benefits Village residents and constituents by ensuring that the small cell installations are safe, reliable, and meet all regulatory requirements from start to finish.

Proposed plans and requests for initial consultation can be sent to permits@riverside.il.us.

Application for permits should follow standard permitting procedures on the Village’s website portal: [link]

 Federal Communications Act of 1934:

There is a provision of federal law (the “Communications Act of 1934) that limits authority over radio frequency emissions.

“47 U.S.C. 332(c)(7)(B)(iv) - No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radiofrequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commission’s regulations concerning such emissions.”