Salt Lake City

Engineering

801-535-7961 | engineeringinfo@slcgov.com | 349 South 200 East, Suite 600

Small Cell Infrastructure Design Standards

Overview

Across the country and here in Utah, the need for faster mobile and data service increases by the day. Both have become the primary way we communicate and get information.

he growing service demands also place an extra burden on traditional cellular service towers that has become harder to meet, Technology’s solution to the problem is the “small cell,” a network of compact data transmission stations that boost service on existing networks and later will also facilitate the next generation of service known as 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, near gathering places for large crowds, like a stadium or arena, and in Salt Lake City’s downtown, where tall buildings can impede service. Part of the small cell’s job is also to support the next generation of cellular technology, commonly known as 5G.

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 where 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 buildings or homes, where most mobile traffic occurs. Small cell nodes are also more environmentally friendly because they are compact and need less energy to operate.

What does a small cell look like?

Small cell nodes are, in fact, pretty small — about the size of a pizza box or a backpack. The nodes are affixed with an antenna that connects to a power source and then to a fiber optic network. Most frequently small cells are placed on top of poles — like streetlights or traffic signals — but they can also be lower to the ground attached to utility-type boxes or other structures. If there’s not easy spot to place a small cell, freestanding poles, commonly called monopoles can be installed. Currently in Salt Lake City, most small cell systems will be installed on monopoles.

How did small cells get to Salt Lake City?

In 2018, the Utah Legislature paved the way for small cell technology by passing the Small Cell Wireless Facilities Deployment Act. (https://bit.ly/3gxBnXl). The law allows for small cell infrastructure to go up in cities across the state and set the basic rules for where they can go. That takes most of the decision-making power away from communities, including Salt Lake City, but small cell installations still have to be permitted 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 — or at least don’t completely disrupt — the aesthetics and character of our neighborhoods. City engineers are working closely with each cell carrier or 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:

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

Small cells will eventually be installed across the City but by law they have to be placed in public right of ways. Those are areas like streets, highways, pathways or 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.


To access of list of small cell node locations go to https://www.slc.gov/engineering/ and click on the Public Way Permits tab.

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 monopoles are installed, franchise agreements are also required. Cellular carriers are also required to maintain small cell equipment and node must be posted information about the carrier and a 24-hour company contact number.

Will small cells affect my health?

So far, the majority of scientific study has not linked exposure to radio frequency emission from cell phones to 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, including small cells.
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: https://bit.ly/2CbcCRS
American Cancer Society: https://bit.ly/3ivURNJ
World Health Organization: https://bit.ly/3euAQUy

What If I have questions?

For more specific questions about small cells installations, you can call Salt Lake City’s Engineering Division at  801-535-7961. There’s also an FAQ with more details here: 

Small Cell FAQ


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.

State Representatives

Representative Angela Romero

(801) 722-4972

angelaromero@le.utah.gov

350 North State, Suite 350
P.O. Box 145030
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-5030

Senator Derek Kitchen

(801) 674-6141

dkitchen@le.utah.gov

320 State Capitol,
P.O. Box 145115
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-5115

Federal Representatives

Representative Chris Stewart

(202) 225-4972

Email Rep. Stewart


2242 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Senator Mike Lee

(202) 224-5444

Email Sen. Lee


361A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Senator Mitt Romney

(202) 224-5251

Email Sen. Romney


124 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Other Contacts

Salt Lake County Health Department

Report a Problem

(385) 468-8888

Utah State Health Department

(888) 222-2542

Utah Department of Health
P.O Box 141010
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-1010

Federal Communications Commission

Report a Problem

(888) 225-5322

445 12th Street S.W. Washington, D.C. 20554


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