T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray took to Twitter earlier this week to tout the Un-carrier’s progress on small cell deployments in Los Angeles. According to Ray, T-Mobile has launched 1,000 small cells in the city to date, which are supported by fiber backhaul and provide improved coverage and capacity for residents. But the milestone comes amid a fierce debate about rules around small cell deployments, not just on the national level, but in California itself.
The state is currently considering S.B. 649, which Democratic Assemblyman Bill Quick reports will “establish a standardized, expedited process for statewide deployment” of the small cells necessary for 5G. In particular, the measure would “prohibit a city or county from adopting or enforcing any regulation on the placement or operation of a communications facility in the rights-of-way by a provider that is authorized by state law to operate in the rights-of-way or from regulating that service or imposing any tax, fee, or charge, except as provided in specified provisions of law or as specifically required by law.”
The bill, which was approved by the state senate is and currently under consideration by the assembly, is similar to legislation passed in other states like Virginia and Minnesota. Like its fellows, the California measure is the subject of fierce debate.
While some, like the Executive Director of California’s Utilities Emergency Association, have come out to back the bill, others including the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board have deemed the legislation a “brazen” takeover of local authority.
“It’s clearly in everyone’s best interest for 5G networks to be deployed, and surely most local governments would agree,” The Times Board wrote. “But why shouldn’t cities and counties be able to try to leverage their assets to get a good deal for residents as part of the process, or take the time to get the public’s input on what could be a significant change to their physical and virtual landscapes?”
The state-level conflict is an echo of the same debate playing out on a national scale at the FCC. The Commission recently moved ahead with a measure to streamline small cell siting on the federal level, which has provoked backlash from local groups that claimed the effort was “ill advised” and would undermine states’ rights.
But as evidenced by Ray’s tweet, small cell deployments are continuing to roll regardless – and there are many more in the pipe. Last month, T-Mobile execs said the Un-carrier currently has about 15,000 small cells, including 13,000 DAS nodes. T-Mobile is set to add “several thousand” more by the end of this year, and another 25,000 are slated for deployment in the next few years.
Filed Under: Infrastructure