The Importance of Site Selection, Acquisition, and Planning for Telecom

Precedence Research projects the global 5G Infrastructure market size to skyrocket, reaching a staggering USD 98.57 billion by 2030. This incredible growth is expected to continue at an immense CAGR of 36.94% between 2022 and 2030, making now the perfect time for innovators in the telecom industry to get involved and help create a more connected future. 

With hundreds of thousands of deployments each year, the volume of telecom projects is growing rapidly. The success of these projects relies on a strong site selection process and navigating the nuances of different site types and permitting considerations.

Why Is Site Selection Important?

Strategic site selection ensures a properly functioning network, effectiveness for end users, and a smooth, unhindered tower construction process. It is literally the ground on which you build a cell tower, the poles onto which you mount small cells, and the buildings in which you install distributed antenna systems (DAS). 

Every deployment is unique, and site selections must coincide with the objectives of the project. As such, site specialists must not only evaluate candidate sites on their own merits, but also take into account their surroundings and other nearby site candidates before making their final selection. 

In short, site selection is one of the first and most important transitions from planning to deployment. Once project managers and site specialists have reviewed all of the relevant data and pinpointed the perfect site location, they can then begin the lengthy site permitting process.

The Role of Permitting in Site Selection & Planning 

There are a myriad of challenges when choosing a new project site, and permitting is a crucial component to get right. Permitting is the legal process that allows telecoms to populate their site with the equipment required to run operations. 

Tower placements, construction plans, and modifications all need to be cleared with both local government and regional agencies. This added layer of bureaucracy is essential to ensure telecoms comply with industry regulations and maintain public interests. 

The types of sites needed will also vary greatly based on the type of deployment; towers, small cells, and DAS sites all have different considerations, for example. Not only will site volume increase as the industry shifts to 5G, but the variety of sites will follow suit due to network densification.

  • Towers: Common considerations for new tower builds include things like height restrictions, community pushback, and concealment technology requirements. Because towers are large structures that take more time than other cell projects to complete, there may also be more community pushback due to construction duration, visual impact, and other factors. 
  • Small Cells: When considering small cell placement, the line of sight is a concern. Because small cells operate at higher frequencies, they cannot send a signal through solid objects like walls and foliage. That’s why site selection is integral to the planning process. A misplaced small cell is all but useless to the network.
  • DAS: When considering antenna placement within a building when installing DAS, placement is everything. Similar to small cells, these small antennae need to be placed properly to be effective for the end user.

Cell Tower Acquisition and Permitting

The increased demand for cell tower acquisition has caused thirteen states to introduce legislation in the 2022 legislative session concerning mobile 5G and small cell infrastructure. 

These initiatives cover essential elements such as zoning, land use, and the environment. So far, New York and Tennessee have passed legislation, and Hawaii has adopted a resolution. This marks an important step in opening up cell tower acquisition opportunities on a larger scale.

Governments across the US recognize that individuals and businesses need better access to wireless services, so they’re introducing legislation for quicker installation of cell towers and 5G infrastructure. Regulations vary from state to state, with some baseline initiatives created to fall in line with telecom industry standards: 

  • Streamlining applications to access public rights-of-way
  • Limits on application fees
  • Optimized processes for the consideration of these applications

Some common pitfalls arise during the zoning and permitting process. “NIMBY” has become a commonplace term in the industry, but what does it mean? It stands for ‘Not In My Back Yard’ and refers to individuals who oppose local communication towers due to health concerns. This roadblock was rectified with the introduction of The Telecommunications Act of 1996. As long as all tower projects meet FCC regulations before construction begins, cities are now prohibited from denying tower applications based on their potential impact on public well-being. 

But even with such pieces of legislation in place, the debate of where 5G towers will be installed and who will have ultimate decision-making power rages on. Many states are implementing laws to control access rights, cost caps, and fees associated with such construction projects—but no two-state regulations look the same. That’s why understanding zoning statutes in your area is essential to successfully selecting tower sites and obtaining the proper permitting. 

In Florida vs. Iowa, as an example, one grants statewide authority while the other gives the final say to municipalities. This divide further highlights that abiding by local rules should not be taken lightly during the tower site selection and installation process. Telecom enterprises that don’t adhere closely enough could get locked into lengthy court battles like we’ve seen recently in California.                 

With the volume of these projects rising year after year, so does the need to standardize and optimize company processes along with them. From site selection to permitting, telecom companies are always on the lookout for new technologies that allow them to streamline the entire process from start to finish, saving both time and money.

As a telecom site acquisition specialist, what steps can you take to optimize site selection and planning?

Site specialists need a single source of truth that keeps site data centralized. Deployment operations management software provides features such as in-context project and candidate site mapping, approvals, and drawings, giving site acquisition specialists the ability to view and research all their data in one place. 

How Sitetracker Can Help Optimize Your Site Selection Process 

Having the right suite of asset management tools at your fingertips can help streamline the complex process of telecom site selection. Say goodbye to manual processes and unlock the power of a seamless site acquisition process. 

  • Overcome permitting hurdles by ensuring every cell site is acquired efficiently, maximizing success
  • Manage activity on individual sites and use  insights to support the selection of new sites
  • Manage site candidates, approvals, and drawings
  • Use embedded mapping to identify your existing sites as well as potential new sites

Sitetracker holds the key to optimizing the site selection and planning process