Changes to Canada’s Antenna Tower Siting Policy Will Hurt Small Cells

By | February 5, 2014

Cell TowerTowers are not a ‘sexy’ topic of discussion – but this one is interesting… New regulations by Industry Canada will require of wireless operators additional commitments to build sub-15 m wireless towers, or let’s call them poles as that’s what most would be.

When I was in the business of designing and building networks, the sub-15 m rule was a blessing: it allowed us to quickly place a cell site until permits for the large cell were completed. With the new rules, this option is gone.

But more importantly, what would the new rules mean for small cell sites? The age of building macros will come to an end as the density of cells is simply too high to get more macros built. This leaves the option to place small cells where needed. The new rules mean that public consultation will be required for small cells. This will add time and cost to the process.

I can’t see carriers happy about this development, but it remains to be seen how the final rules will work.

On the other hand encouraging tower sharing is positive, but this is something that the large operators do among themselves already. Opening the process to the new entrants will be welcomed.

Industry Canada Release:

Industry Canada’s existing antenna siting procedures apply to all companies that want to install an antenna tower. The procedures outline the process that a company must follow when installing a new radiocommunication antenna tower. This includes sharing towers where possible, consulting with the local land-use authority generally the municipality and the public as required, and adhering to any local antenna siting protocol that exists.

The Government of Canada’s policy guiding the installation of antenna towers was established in 2008. Under the original policy, a company was only required to consult with local residents when it was planning to build a tower higher than 15 metres. There was no time limit on when the new tower needed to be built following these consultations; and, in many cases, residents felt they weren’t being given adequate notice of the details of the consultation or the plan to build a tower.

To help address the concerns of citizens about the number of new towers being built in their communities, in March 2013 the Harper Government announced changes to its telecommunications policy. These changes reinforced the requirement that any company wanting to build a new tower first had to look at sharing an existing tower or using an existing structure for its antenna.

The improvements to the Antenna Tower Siting Policy that were announced today will further strengthen the requirements for the wireless industry to consult with local residents, increase transparency for municipalities and improve communications throughout the tower siting process.

Specific changes will include:

requiring a company to consult on all commercial tower installations, regardless of height;

establishing a three-year limit between the time of consultation and the time a tower is built;

ensuring residents are well-informed of upcoming consultations by requiring communications from the company to be clearly marked; and

encouraging municipalities to get involved early in the tower siting process.

Furthermore, new measures will strengthen federal communications with the public on tower siting procedures. This will include:

new online resources; and

new reporting mechanisms to track tower issues and report back to communities.

When an issue or impasse arises that is related to a new tower site, the parties can approach Industry Canada for a determination.

Find out more about Canada’s Antenna Tower Siting Policy via Changes to Canada’s Antenna Tower Siting Policy – Canada News Centre.

5 thoughts on “Changes to Canada’s Antenna Tower Siting Policy Will Hurt Small Cells

  1. Riad Sahnine (@RiadSahnine)

    Hi Franck, knowing that small cells uses existing poles (street Lights and Utilities poles), so no need to erect new poles, You sill think that Small Cells will be impacted by those new rules? Not sure …Riad

    1. Frank Rayal

      Point well made Riad… I think if public review is required anytime someone needs to place an antenna on a pole which was the case for any structure over 15 m, then, yes, will be a problem.

  2. Riad Sahnine (@RiadSahnine)

    I don’t think that Outdoor Small cells or WiFi AP can be subject to those rules. this make no sense, The goal is to avoid situations where WSP erected Poles at 14.9 m, which were too similar to a Macro site (Big Cabinet, ..). If the small cells are not subject to those rules, as i Hope …Small Cells will be more attractive as a speedier way to get to market. Wait and see..

  3. Maxim Chartrand

    This could hurt not only WSP but also rural wireless ISPs who use wood poles or small lattice towers like a DMX.

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