Frequently Asked Questions about 5G

Commonly Used Terms

Franchise Agreement – A legal, binding contract between two parties.

Small Cell – A very low powered, short-range cellular base station typically installed on light poles, utility poles and sides of buildings.

Macro Site – Large, high-powered cellular installations typically found on building rooftops capable of providing 4G service to entire neighborhoods.

Facility/Node – Terms used to describe a small cell installation.

Right of Way – Streets and sidewalks where light poles and utility poles are placed.

Radio Frequency (RF) Signal – A type of electromagnetic radiation that moves through space to transmit wireless waves. Cellular antennas and Wi-Fi routers utilize non-ionizing radiation to transmit signals.

Siting – The process of identifying a location for a small cell installation.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Does the City's review process consider health concerns?

Pursuant to their franchise agreements, Mobile Telecommunications franchisees are required to comply with all Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") guidelines related to radio frequency ("RF") emissions, and DoITT is committed to holding each franchisee to this standard.

The federal government regulates radio emissions as they relate to health or environmental concerns and constrains local governments from doing more. Visit the FCC's website for more information on wireless devices and health concerns.

Can the City prohibit the installation of small cells on light poles?

It is the City's goal to facilitate the deployment of wireless services throughout the city both safely and equitably. While there may be specific pole locations deemed to be unavailable for a small installation due to a conflict with other City uses, most pole locations throughout the city are eligible for reservation by franchisees.

New York City's Mobile Telecommunications franchise was established to help the expansion of new and improved wireless services while ensuring that there is a system in place to ensure an orderly assignment of poles to mobile telecommunications companies and to manage private businesses' use of City-owned property.


How are pole sites selected?

As allowed by its mobile telecom franchise, the City offers light poles and utility poles for use by the wireless carriers for a fee. The carriers choose the poles they want, and then the City reviews those selections to ensure that the particular site is acceptable.

DoITT seeks to ensure equity in the distribution of these small cells by offering greater pole availability outside Manhattan below 96th street.

Is there 5G in my neighborhood?

Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile/Sprint are adding 5G technology in New York City during each pole-top reservation phase. As they do that, they use a combination of "macro" sites (tower transmitters generally located on the rooftops of private property) and "small cells," which are typically located street poles.

There is no 5G infrastructure on City light poles or utility poles, as of today.

There are also no widely available handheld devices that are able to receive 5G service. This situation is likely to change rapidly in the immediate future.

How can I find out if there is a 4G small cell pole installation (and going forward a 5G small cell installation) near me?

We will continue to periodically update a dataset of poles approved for the potential installation of small cells on the City's Open Data portal. You can search by borough, street name, intersection, community board district, council district, and zip code.

Why do I want a 5G installation in my neighborhood?

5G and enhanced wireless services in general are essential to the continued economic growth of New York City. 5G will become the new standard for mobile telecommunications transmission all over the world. In order for New York to maintain its position as the communications capital of the world, it will need to also lead the world in 5G deployment.

The City of New York has developed design guidelines that standardize and minimize the physical and visual impact of the equipment while also accommodating the needs of the wireless industry.

Why is this necessary in residential neighborhoods?

5G infrastructure is essential to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to reliable affordable mobile phone and data service. No neighborhood should be left behind in its communications capabilities.

Who should I reach out to if I have questions about emissions?

Is every pole eligible for an installation, and if not, how are they eliminated?

Most poles throughout out the city are potentially eligible to franchisees to use, depending on whether the pole is hosting infrastructure for other uses. When a franchisee identifies a coverage or capacity need at a particular location, it reserves a pole that meets its operational needs. The City then initiates its review process to ensure the pole is available and approvable.

What is the City doing to make sure there is 5G coverage in all neighborhoods across the 5 boroughs?

Equitable access to communications technology is the major goal of New York City's telecommunications policy. The pole reservation system is designed to encourage the private sector to provide the highest quality, most up-to-date 5G service in every neighborhood.

What is the next step in the review process?

On August 10, 2020, a public meeting before the New York City Public Design Commission will be held to review the proposed 5G equipment design.