By Brian Mackey, Md7 Land Use

Your RF engineer wants a small cell on this utility pole. Your construction manager prefers that streetlight pole. The City Planner says neither pole is acceptable and asks you to move the site 1/4 mile down the road, away from nearby houses. How do you please everyone? Our Land Use team asks – and answers – this question on a daily basis.

It starts with education and teamwork. We’ve talked extensively about the importance of developing rapport with jurisdiction decision makers, a topic so vital that it deserves another mention. It is equally crucial to recognize the value of strong intra-team communication. Have discussions with your RF engineer to prevent choosing a site that looks great on a propagation map, but requires several hundred feet of underground conduit topped with curb-to-curb street resurfacing that costs as much as a macro site. A well-placed small cell will provide maximum coverage while minimizing the price tag associated with bringing power and telco to the pole.  

Work closely with your construction manager to make sure she knows how the local zoning code may limit the options. At the same time, become familiar with construction concerns to avoid choosing sites that cannot reasonably be built. 

Explain to the City Planner why small cells need to be closer to residential neighborhoods than he might want or expect. While you’re at it, inform the local residents about the benefits your small cells will offer. Believe it or not, I have read a letter of opposition from a resident who said her cell phone reception was so bad that she didn’t think an antenna would help. Clearly, this is precisely the type of person who would benefit most from a nearby small cell.

Naturally, all of this gets easier when you have a good relationship with everyone involved. We’ve said it before and it’s worth repeating: taking time to build relationships will help get everyone on the same wavelength, and will assist you in solving the small cell puzzle.