Salt Lake City


801-535-7961 | | 349 S 200 E, Ste 600

Small Cell Infrastructure Design Standards

Responsive Margin


Globally, the need for faster mobile connections and data service is increasing by the day.

Growing service demand creates ever-increasing burdens on traditional cellular service towers. The solution? Small cell. Small cell is a network of compact data transmission stations that boost service on existing networks and facilitate the next generation of service, 5G.

Small cell technology installations are already popping up across Salt Lake City and raising plenty of questions, so here’s what you need to know: 

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a small cell do?

A small cell is a low-powered radio access station, sometimes called a node, that transmits data in a smaller geographical range than a regular cell tower. That might sound backwards — bigger is better, right? — but the idea is to place groups of small cells across a community, increasing the overall capacity and quality of wireless service. It’s the “strength in numbers” theory. Small cells also transmit signals in high demand areas where the population density is high: anywhere near large crowds tend to gather, like a stadium or arena; and in Salt Lake City’s downtown, where tall buildings impede service signals from larger stations.

Why does Salt Lake City need small cells?

Small cell stations will help manage the demand for wireless services as the City grows. By design, they improve access to wireless services in places where coverage is low (or “spotty”), especially at the outer edge of a cellular network’s range. Small cells can also improve the quality of service inside large buildings and homes; this is where most mobile traffic occurs. Small cell nodes are also more environmentally friendly because they are compact and require less energy to operate.

What does a small cell look like?

Small cell nodes are, in fact, relatively small, averaging about the size of a pizza box or a backpack. The nodes are affixed with an antenna that connects to a power source and a fiber optic network. Most frequently, small cells are installed on top of poles, like streetlights or traffic signals. Less often, they are found lower near ground-level, attached to utility-type boxes or other similar structures. If there’s not easy spot to place a small cell, freestanding poles will be installed. In Salt Lake City, most small cells will be installed on freestanding poles.

How did small cells get to Salt Lake City?

In 2018, the Utah State Legislature paved the way for small cell technology by passing the Small Cell Wireless Facilities Deployment Act. ( The law allows for small cell infrastructure to be implemented in cities across the state and set guidelines for their allowable locations. Because the standards were set at the State level, most of the decision-making power is out of communities’ hands, including Salt Lake City; however, small cell installations still have to be approved and meet local design standards

What design standards has Salt Lake City set?

Salt Lake City has created a set of design standards to ensure that small cell technology fits into the aesthetics and character of our neighborhoods. City engineers are working closely with each cell carrier and infrastructure company on their installation plan details before issuing a permit. Here again, however, the State law hampers some of the City’s ability to hold cell carriers to City design standards. You can read about Small Cell Infrastructure Design Standards here:

Where will small cell nodes be located in Salt Lake City?

Small cells will eventually be installed across our entire city; by law, they have to be placed in public right of ways. Those are areas like streets, highways, pathways, and other places that can be crossed or used by the public. If a cellular carrier determines the best place to mount a small cell node is on private property, they have to follow City zoning regulations. Small cells can also be installed in Salt Lake City’s historic districts and next to historic landmarks. There are additional design standards to be met in those areas.

As of June 2024, 359 small cell antennae have been installed in Salt Lake City.

How will I know small cells are coming to my neighborhood?

The simple answer is: you might not. Neither state law nor city ordinances require advance notice to property owners of planned utility installations. This applies to all utilities, not just small cell nodes.

What are the rules for cellular carriers?

There are several rules for wireless carriers who want to place small cells in Salt Lake City. The first is a master licensing agreement with the City, which set terms and conditions for protecting the interests of residents. Second, they’ll need a right-of-way permit before any equipment can be installed. In places where freestanding poles are installed, additional City agreements are also required. Cellular carriers are also required to maintain small cell equipment; nodes must have information about the carrier and a 24-hour company contact number posted on the box.

The permitted wireless carrier companies in Salt Lake City include AT&T, Crown Castle, ExteNet and Verizon.

Can I appeal a small cell node permit?

To review a small cell installation permit, you can contact Permit Engineer Scott Weiler at 801-535-6159. You can also call City Engineer Mark Stephens at 801-535-6355.

Will small cells affect my health?

The majority of scientific study on the subject has not found any link between exposure to radio frequency emission from cell phones and specific health risks. However, the Federal Communications Commission, in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration sets limits for the radio frequencies emitted by cellular data equipment, Small cells are included in that description and are therefore limited as well.

The FCC and the American Cancer Society and World Health Organization websites each have information about radio frequency safety that can be found here:

Federal Communications Commission:
American Cancer Society:
World Health Organization:

What If I have more questions?

For more specific questions about small cell installations, you can call Salt Lake City’s Engineering Division at  801-535-7961.  

Federal, State, and Other Contacts

If you have already spoken with Salt Lake City and your concern is related to State or Federal regulations, below are the representatives you can contact.

Other Contacts

Salt Lake County Health Department

(385) 468-8888

788 East Woodoak Lane (5380 South)

Murray, Utah 84107

Utah State Health Department

(888) 222-2542

P.O Box 141010

Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-1010

Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

(888) 225-5322

445 12th Street S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20554