“Residents of Denver’s Riviera apartments were surprised earlier this year when a roughly 30-foot-tall green pole appeared a few feet in front of their building entrance. The pole, installed by Verizon Communications Inc. and laden with cellular antennas, was designed to improve cellphone service in the area, but the residents complained about the placement.

Months later, it was gone. But that was just a small taste of what’s to come across the country: Millions of Americans will soon encounter similar poles or notice antennas sprouting on existing structures, like utility poles, street lamps and traffic lights, all over their neighborhoods. All four national cellphone companies are pushing to build out their networks with a profusion of small, local cells to keep their data-hungry customers satisfied and lay the groundwork for fifth-generation, or 5G, service.

Those plans face pushback in many places, and not just from residents. Officials in some cities say they don’t have enough staff to process applications for dozens or even hundreds of new installations. In some smaller towns, officials say they lack the expertise to review the new technology, though they’re working fast to get up to speed.

In Wilton Manors, Fla., Mayor Gary Resnick says the Miami suburb needs more time to draft an ordinance to govern the installation of the new technology. And there are seasonal issues. “We generally restrict construction in the rights of way during hurricane season for obvious reasons,” he says.

Just around the corner

More than 100,000 small cells are already wired up across the U.S., according to industry research firm S&P Global . Cellphone companies plan to boost their capacity with several hundred thousand more cells to improve existing service and prepare for 5G service, which they see as a potential competitor for cable and fiber optics, among other things.

Some of the local resistance is rooted in how small cells work. Companies can usually find space on private property for large cell towers with a range of several miles. Small cells reach only a few hundred feet, so carriers need many more sites, usually on public land, for the system to work.

Cellphone companies don’t have much choice if they want to keep up with their customers’ appetite for data, says Jonathan Adelstein, chief executive of the Wireless Infrastructure Association, whose members include wireless carriers. “People wonder why they might be having a dropped call or slow video,” Mr. Adelstein says. “Then they have a vocal minority that are ruining it for everybody” by opposing the expansion of cellular networks.”

Our Takeaway:

In the end, there will be compromises and money will change hands. The hope is that this process isn’t too drawn out. The large number of required small cells for 5G as well as their need to be placed closer to end users puts these zoning/licensing/permitting issues in the lap of local officials, who undoubtedly do not have the resources to review these in a timely manner. Stay tuned as this continues to play out. Visit us at http://in-buildingwireless.com/ and see what our in-building wireless solutions can do for you.

Original article taken from: https://www.wsj.com/articles/across-the-u-s-5g-network-builders-run-into-local-resistance-1536692258.