The widespread use of mobile devices for wireless phone calls, texting, mobile web browsing, and applications requires a dense network of physical infrastructure to support these uses for millions of New Yorkers. The main cellular technology of today is 4G LTE, but 5G – fifth generation mobile technology – is the future of wireless. 5G is advertised as delivering enhanced mobile broadband capabilities that are up to 10 times faster than speeds currently widely available, with immediate responsiveness.
In August 2021, the Public Design Commission (PDC) approved the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication's (DoITT) design for a covering that houses mobile telecommunications equipment from multiple wireless carriers on individual City street poles. This marks another major step forward in the equitable expansion of 5G.
This "multi-tenant" design reduces construction and deployment costs for carriers and helps accelerate the equitable build out of 5G across New York City. Because 5G requires more infrastructure located closer together to work properly, multi-tenant design makes carrier networks denser to increase coverage. Multi-tenant 5G infrastructure also uses street assets more efficiently by reducing the number of poles needed for 5G while expanding service.
Widespread 5G that reaches all neighborhoods in all boroughs is central to the City's strategy of a fair recovery for all residents. Greater connectivity will improve equity and enhance New Yorkers' access to health care, education, jobs, and more.
DoITT worked directly with the wireless industry to design a multi-tenant solution that resembles the previously approved "single-tenant" covering for individual carriers. The multi-tenant covering is taller to hold equipment from multiple carriers and, like the single-tenant covering, can house 4G and 5G equipment.
In 2020, the PDC approved a design for a covering to house mobile equipment from individual carriers on poles citywide. That single-tenant design was the result of an unprecedented collaboration between DoITT and the cell phone carriers to produce a single, unobtrusive design.
These renderings show coverings that conceal pole-top mobile telecommunications equipment. The first rendering is the approved multi-tenant 5G/4G covering on a pole (90.5” tall), which mimics the approved 5G/4G single-tenant design for poles (63” tall); the split images show single-tenant 4G coverings (left) and single-tenant 5G/4G coverings (right); and the last image shows 5G equipment, which is often bigger, in other cities.
The Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications and the Department of Transportation are making 7,500 street poles available to mobile telecommunications companies through new reservation phases with an online reservation portal. The portal improves the reservation process as more poles are released.
About 1,500 poles are frequently released in batches through this process. This increases the number of City street poles currently reserved by companies. Seventy-five percent will be available in the outer boroughs or above 96th Street in Manhattan.
This strategic approach will make sure that historically underserved and under-connected neighborhoods can benefit from 5G and its promise of broadband-like speeds for cellular data connections.
In early 2020, DoITT entered into Mobile Telecommunications Franchise agreements with 12 companies to install equipment for cellular networks on City-owned light poles and privately-owned utility poles. The equipment can be concealed in a box that supports both 5G and 4G equipment.
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What is 5G
Up until 2020, all of the mobile telecommunications infrastructure deployed in New York City has been to support 4G (fourth generation) service. With the recent increase of mobile devices, and in wireless data usage, existing 4G telecommunications infrastructure is projected to be unable to meet future growing demand. The fifth-generation wireless technology, or 5G, is capable of a higher capacity of service; delivering faster data transfer speeds while at the same time servicing more devices with high quality voice service. The growth from 4G to 5G will require the installation of larger pole-mounted equipment and will support making faster, higher quality service equitably available in every neighborhood in the city.
DoITT's commitment to equity and transparency
The benefits of 5G will not be limited by zip code. The approved equipment may be installed on street poles in every neighborhood of the City. Franchisees identify poles that meet their individual wireless coverage and capacity needs and select them during periodic pole reservation periods initiated by DoITT.
DoITT is committed to ensuring that 5G will be equitably deployed throughout the City by allocating a set number of poles to be reserved in each of three geographic zones, which cover the entire City. This method of pole allocation is designed to ensure that more poles are made available in areas of the city outside of the Manhattan core.
DoITT 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 and intersection as well community district, council district or zip code.
Health and safety
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. For more FCC information on wireless devices and health concerns, please visit: https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/wireless-devices-and-health-concerns.
Mobile telecommunications franchises
DoITT's Mobile Telecommunications franchise allows wireless companies to install and maintain mobile telecommunications equipment ("small cells") on certain street poles. Since 2004, Mobile Telecommunications franchisees have installed small cells on over 6,000 city-owned and privately-owned poles, improving wireless services throughout the City. Previous deployments have focused primarily on 4G densification.
Mobile telecommunication infrastructure is heavily regulated by the Federal Government. For example, Federal rules and statutes exclusively govern radio frequency transmission, including the impact to human health.
Pole review process
As franchise administrator, DoITT's role is to oversee all franchisee activity to ensure compliance with franchise agreement rules and to coordinate reviews among multiple city agencies.
DoITT has established a reservation system for mobile telecommunications companies who wish to deploy their infrastructure on City poles. Companies are regularly provided with an opportunity to request a set number of poles. More poles are generally made available outside of the Manhattan business core in order to ensure that the most up-to-date mobile phone service is equitably available in neighborhoods in all five boroughs. Every city-owned light pole reserved by a franchisee is reviewed by the Department of Transportation to ensure that it meets certain structural and electrical requirements.
Poles located in or next to historic districts and/or city parks undergo additional review by the Landmarks Preservation Commission ("LPC") and Department of Parks and Recreation ("DPR"). Each agency evaluates the potential impact of a proposed mobile telecommunications installation on the reserved pole and the surrounding area within its jurisdiction.
Applications for attachment to privately-owned (by electricity or land-line telephone providers) wooden utility poles must include prior permission from the utility company that owns the pole. DoITT will grant franchisees permission to use utility poles located on City sidewalks only after approval documents have been provided from the utility company owner, in addition to any other required City approvals (e.g. LPC, Parks).