United States companies will invest $245 billion in 5G infrastructure.  From hundreds of thousands of small cell deployments to maintenance of existing sites, the volume of telecom projects is growing rapidly. This means that the need for more cell sites is growing. The types of sites needed will also vary greatly, including tower, small cell, and DAS sites. Not only will site volume increase as the industry moves towards 5G but the variety of sites is following suit due to network densification.

Site selection is an important part of the project planning 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). To make the process easier, it’s crucial to understand where all of your candidate sites are, know where your existing sites are located and have reliable metrics on the project success of different site types. In order to do all of these three things, telecom project managers need to have a single source of truth for all of this information.

The role of permitting in site selection

The challenge of choosing new cell sites

There are a myriad of challenges when choosing a new project site.

  • Towers: When considering a site for a new build there are a number of factors to consider, like height restrictions, community pushback, permitting processes, concealment technology requirements, etc. Because towers are large structures that take more time than other cell projects to complete, there may be more community pushback due to construction duration, visual impact, and other factors. That’s why it’s important to consider tower candidate sites in context from the start.
  • 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.

It’s clear that site selection is an important project planning phase in starting a successful project. For each new build project, whether tower or small cell, site selection and acquisition is based on project objectives. To accurately assess whether proposed site placement will accomplish project goals, you need to assess candidate sites in context.  This means looking at existing sites, other candidates sites, and the environment around them, to make the best possible decision. Once the site acquisition specialist has chosen a site, the permitting process begins.

Site acquisition and permitting

The site permitting process has changed over the past year for small cell deployment. Earlier in 2018, US legislature around site permitting changes for small cell projects changed in the following ways:

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

All of this new legislation points to an understanding that these types of projects will continue to increase into the future and that connectivity is of utmost importance in the US. Permitting processes have been streamlined for small cells, which is great for site acquisition timelines, but the volume of these projects is rising, so the need to standardize and optimize company processes rises with it.

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

Site selection and acquisition is increasingly complex with already existing permitting challenges and the rising volume of sites needed will only add to the challenge. To get ahead of these hurdles and ensure that site selection and acquisition goes smoothly for every cell site, have all of your existing and candidate site data in one platform.

The Sitetracker Platform provides site selection features and tools, such as in-context project and candidate site mapping capabilities, giving site acquisition specialists the ability to view and research all site data in one place.