Explaining Small Cells to a New Community

Answering the simple question, “what is a small cell?” can get complicated.  Do not let this happen when you are approaching a new community or municipality with a small cell zoning request.  

If you ask an RF engineer, “what is a small cell?” you may get an equally complex, but very different answer than if you ask a lawyer.  The general term “small cell” means different things to different people.  Are you talking about femtocells, picocells, or microcells; indoor or outdoor; licensed or unlicensed; DAS or single carrier solutions?  

When seeking a zoning approval in a new community and a resident, municipal employee or another person who has a stake in the process asks, “what is a small cell?” your answer will set the tone for the entire zoning process.  If you complicate or over-explain the answer, you will risk confusing the listener.  You must be precise and clear to avoid complicating and delaying the process.  

Remember the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) and avoid drifting too quickly into various idiosyncrasies such as installation details.  While the wireless infrastructure industry has been talking about small cells for several years, a lot of folks have never heard of them.  We need to be prepared to speak in basic terms and avoid knee-jerk reactions.  

So, next time someone asks you, “what is a small cell?” offer a simple answer such as:

A small cell is a much smaller, low-powered version of a cellular antenna that gets mounted on a utility or light pole instead of a tower or rooftop.

Then wait and allow them to respond and/or ask a follow-up question.  Typically, the next question is, “why do we need them?”

More to come…

December 11, 2017
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