Small Cell Technology Review

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In Winnipeg, mobile devices like cell phones traditionally get service from large (“Macro”) cell phone towers and antennas so we can access internet, phone, and texting services.

Small cells are smaller versions of those towers that can complement larger radio installations to improve coverage, add capacity, and support new services and user experiences. About the size of a home Wi-Fi router, they are small enough to be installed atop poles, lampposts, on the sides of buildings, or on traffic signals. Their weaker signal only covers a small geographic area, so multiple small cells are necessary to equal the coverage of

In Winnipeg, mobile devices like cell phones traditionally get service from large (“Macro”) cell phone towers and antennas so we can access internet, phone, and texting services.

Small cells are smaller versions of those towers that can complement larger radio installations to improve coverage, add capacity, and support new services and user experiences. About the size of a home Wi-Fi router, they are small enough to be installed atop poles, lampposts, on the sides of buildings, or on traffic signals. Their weaker signal only covers a small geographic area, so multiple small cells are necessary to equal the coverage of a Macro tower.

Small cells are required for 5G service, the fifth generation of wireless technology. 4G service has been available in Winnipeg for several years, and is currently deployed on the traditional (Macro) cell phone tower system. While existing 4G service would benefit from a shift to small cells, 5G service is dependent on small cells to support better coverage, substantially increased speeds, and other features.

The Government of Canada is responsible for regulating all forms of cellular technology, while the City of Winnipeg (City) has a role in guiding the location, design, and consultation with the community for the introduction of antenna systems on assets in Winnipeg.

The City is seeking to better understand the opportunities, issues, and value of small cell technology and the implementation of 5G service. We are looking for feedback to find out more and prepare for small cell technology. The City is collecting feedback from residents and other stakeholders to help inform activities within the City’s jurisdiction.

Public engagement will occur in three phases:

Phase 1: Collect feedback to inform aspects of the trial

Phase 2: Collect feedback from trial area residents

Phase 3: Collect feedback on draft recommendations

An image of a City from overhead shows different elements designated as City-owned assets, Manitoba Hydro, or privately owned. These roles are described in the table below.

The following information illustrates roles based on current policies and guidelines, which will be part of the review:




City-owned Assets

Manitoba Hydro Infrastructure

Privately-owned Lands/Buildings

Exempt Locations

Private Sites

Description

Towers or small cells on/in City-owned land or buildings

Installations of antenna/small cells on existing MB Hydro infrastructure through lease agreements with MB Hydro and exempted under the City Encroachment By-law

Locations where antenna system proposal review and public consultation is exempted by the Winnipeg Antenna System Policy

Lease agreements with individual property owners for sites available on the open real estate market

City Role

  • City lease agreement in/on buildings
  • (Multiple) permit/s on rights-of-way
  • Letter of Concurrence/Non-Concurrence on buildings/ structures based on conformity with the WASP

No role

No role

Letter of Concurrence/Non-Concurrence on buildings/ structures based on conformity with the WASP

Examples

  • City-owned/public buildings
  • City-owned poles (e.g., ornamental street lights)
  • Transit shelters
  • Traffic signal poles, etc.
  • MB Hydro poles on back lanes, etc.
  • Street light standards
  • Inside buildings
  • Where the antenna installation does not increase the height of the structure by more than 25%
  • Freestanding towers less than 15m in height (e.g., amateur radio towers)
  • An increase in height to an existing freestanding tower no greater than 25% of initial height.
  • Temporary antenna systems
  • Maintenance, minor modification and relocation within the same site
  • Freestanding towers
  • Rooftop antenna installations
  • Antenna attached to buildings


We want to know:

Phase 1 [we are here]:

  • What are residents’ thoughts about small cell technology?

Future public engagement phases:

  • What should the City be considering for updates to the Winnipeg System Antenna Policy to address small cells?
  • What should the City be considering with regards to small cells installed on/in City-owned land or buildings?
  • What should the City consider in terms of public engagement for small cell installations?
  • What should the City require with regards to the way Small Cells should look?

We commit to:

  • Passing feedback along to decision makers, including a report on how feedback was considered by the Public Service.
  • Considering and incorporating feedback on the location of small cells into the location guidelines in the Winnipeg Antenna Systems Policy where possible.
  • Considering and incorporating feedback on the design of small cells into the Winnipeg Antenna Systems Policy where possible.
  • Considering and incorporating feedback on requirements for public engagement into the Winnipeg Antenna Systems Policy where possible.

Background

Wireless carriers are interested in introducing new service delivery methods – such as 5G networks – to improve cellular reception and performance throughout Winnipeg. Carriers are now planning to introduce Small Cells sites in Winnipeg. These will supplement the traditional large scale Macro Cell towers that are currently used.

The City of Winnipeg is not responsible for the regulation or monitoring of radio communications. Canada’s Radiofrequency Exposure Guidelines are developed at the federal level by Health Canada (Safety Code 6) and regulated by Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED). Any company operating 5G or Small Cell technologies in Winnipeg would be required to adhere to these guidelines.

The City’s role is explained in this document, including the Winnipeg Antenna Systems Policy (WASP). The goal of the WASP is to ensure there is a reliable communications network in the city, while at the same time protecting the safety of residents and minimizing adverse visual impacts on the community. The WASP was adopted by City Council, as amended on May 27, 2015.

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