Ready or not, 5G is coming to Farragut

Wendy SmithFarragut, The Farragut Insider

In spite of the fact that they’re often used to stream cat videos, smartphones can no longer be called a luxury. For most of us, they’re a professional and personal necessity. But even those who agree with this assessment would struggle with a 40-foot pole being installed near their homes just to bump up streaming speeds.

The proliferation of small cell support structures is sure to have a major impact on our landscape in the coming years. Farragut Planning Commission has received applications for 11 new small cell support structures (four 4G and seven 5G) – one on Parkside Drive, four on Kingston Pike, two on Campbell Station Road and four in residential neighborhoods – and all are from Verizon Wireless. Other large telecommunications companies are likely to follow suit, says Farragut Community Development Director Mark Shipley.

It remains to be seen whether or not these companies will be willing to work together to share small cell support structures and their fiber networks.

“To my knowledge, that has not been thought out too much yet,” Shipley says.

While Farragut residents who face having one of these small cell support structures located near their homes are understandably concerned, they don’t have much choice about it. State law now says that wireless providers should be treated like utility companies. That gives them the same right to install poles and supporting fiber networks in the public right-of-way as KUB or other utilities would have to install infrastructure for electricity, water, sewer or gas.

Some residents have been surprised to learn that they don’t own the property immediately adjacent to the road. This area is reserved for utilities, pedestrian facilities, and other public infrastructure.

Public demand has created the need for 5G network technology, which provides much higher data speeds than 4G. It’s currently being installed in high-use areas, like Turkey Creek Shopping Center, and areas that aren’t serviced well, Shipley says. The structures are typically smaller than those that carry 4G, and their distribution depends on topography or other physical barriers.

The state of Tennessee generally limits the height of small cell support structures to 40 feet in residential areas with the intent of emulating the height of nearby overhead utility poles. Farragut and other jurisdictions have limited say over where these poles can be placed but could request a move of a few feet, he says.

Whether we like it or not, hunger for data speed isn’t likely to be satisfied anytime soon. That being the case, Farragut and every other jurisdiction will need to accommodate these structures while working with the providers to lessen the impact on the public, as much as possible.

“There wouldn’t be a market for this infrastructure if people didn’t want better speed on their devices,” says Shipley. “Consumers are ultimately driving this.”

To read “Summary of the Competitive Wireless Broadband Investment, Deployment, and Safety Act of 2018” by UT’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service, click here. The community is also invited to a workshop discussion of Federal Communications Commission and state of Tennessee laws regarding the placement of small cell support structures and related wireless infrastructure at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 17, at Farragut Town Hall.

Town of Farragut marketing and public relations director Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut Insider.


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