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AVALON - Avalon Borough Council used a portion of its March 11 work session to discuss planning for 5G network deployment.

Business Administrator Scott Wahl shared the view of borough technology consultants that “4G will be exhausted in the State of New Jersey in 24 months.” Despite an extreme outcome not occurring, the wait for 5G is short, and the moment to prepare is now.

The discussion's result is a move by the borough to prepare a small cell deployment plan ready for council consideration before Labor Day.

Legislation

Twenty-one states have enacted small cell legislation that facilitates the deployment of 5G networks. In 2019, another 23 states, including New Jersey, introduced such legislation.

In New Jersey, pending action in Trenton seeks a “fair and predictable process for the deployment of small wireless facilities in a manner consistent with the character of the area” in which it is deployed.  The ability of local governing bodies to influence how the deployment proceeds is a large part of the debate.

The New Jersey League of Municipalities (NJLM) is critical of the current legislation drafts. Stating that “municipal leaders share in the goal of broad deployment of 5G and small cell wireless technology,” the NJLM gave testimony before the Assembly, in which it warned against removing power from municipal governments, which “manage public rights of way to protect residents’ safety, preserve the character of the community, and maintain the availability of public rights of way for current and future uses.”

The legislation, the NJLM maintains, “would significantly impede municipalities’ ability to serve as trustees of public property, safety and welfare.”

The development of a small cell deployment plan is Avalon’s way of proactively responding to the pending legislation. Where the legislation gives a municipality a short period for review of applications for small cell deployment, the existence of an already developed and locally approved plan would allow the municipality to state its preferred implementation strategies.

A part of the concern for a proactive approach stems from the radically different nature of 5G network deployment, as compared to current 4G networks.

The Technology

Mobile 5G technology promises a new world of potential applications. With faster speeds, greater capacity and better reliability, 5G will open the flood gates to applications no one can envision today.

Initial first-generation wireless provided mobile voice communications. 2G added text, and 3G offered early mobile computing capability. With 4G mobile users received higher speeds and greater signal reliability. 

The result was a flood of applications for work and entertainment.

5G speeds and greater continuous connections will allow for a new world of applications.  The technology, however, is deployed in a fundamentally different way.

The new infrastructure depends on small cells that collect and transmit signals over short ranges. This requires “collocating” the cells on other infrastructure and making use of rights of way, as the fastest way to achieve broad deployment.

Using existing utility poles for cell boxes, installing new “stealth poles,” radio wave proximity to homes, aesthetics in areas that have undergrounded previous utilities: These factors come into play with 5G deployment.

Avalon Action

Most federal and state legislation seeks to streamline the process of deployment and to do so by diminishing the role that local governments have in how that deployment occurs. Avalon is seeking to get in front of a visible trend.

The push by carriers to deploy small cell networks is moving quickly. Most experts agree that nation-wide 5G will be a reality by 2023. 5G is already present in parts of the country, but it lives alongside 4G, in a world in which few can take advantage of 5G capabilities. New 5G phones are appearing, but they are still limited by the availability of networks.

With legislation moving to support carriers’ deployment of 5G, with the clamor for a promised new world of applications and heavy investment in expensive 5G phones and other devices increasing, the need for ubiquitous small cell networks is growing rapidly.

No governing body wants to stand as an impediment to the deployment of the new technology. Avalon seeks a plan that will make that deployment fit with the unique character of the community.

To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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