5G and Small Cell Wireless

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a small cell wireless facility? And what does it do?

A small cell wireless facility is a piece of broadband infrastructure containing cellular antenna components. This equipment uses high-frequency electromagnetic waves to provide 5G wireless communication coverage to a small area. This equipment is typically smaller and more compact than a traditional, or “macro” cell tower, and it is often installed on existing or new utility poles.

Why does this equipment need to be installed on streetlights or utility poles?

The cellular antenna components within a small cell wireless facility serve as a base station for high-frequency electromagnetic waves, which facilitate 5G communication. These higher-frequency waves do not travel as far as lower-frequency waves used in 4G and other previous communication technologies. So providers need to install small cell facilities at closer intervals. Streetlights and utility poles, because of their prevalence, provide a convenient place for this equipment to be installed.

How do wireless service providers get City permission to install a small cell wireless facility?

Each application for a small cell wireless facility is reviewed by a multi-departmental team including staff members from the Electric and Water utilities as well as Legal, Public Safety, Planning and Engineering and other departments. These reviewers ensure that each proposed facility meets standards for electrical safety, structural integrity and aesthetics and that it complies with state law. Once an application is approved by all reviewing departments, the wireless service provider is given a permit to begin work.

How long will installation take for each new small cell wireless facility?

This will vary based on provider and location, but it most likely will occur in separate phases during the course of several weeks. Before installation can begin, underground fiber optic cable must already be in place. Cellular providers have been working for the past few years to install this fiber infrastructure throughout the City. Installation of each new small cell facility begins with pouring a foundation to support a new streetlight or utility pole, then connecting electric service, installing the new pole – which contains the small cell equipment – removing the old pole and restoring the site.

How many of these are there going to be in Naperville? Where will they be located?

Residents should expect to see these going up all over town. 5G technology will require this new network infrastructure to work, so cellular providers will be looking to install this equipment wherever they anticipate demand. In short, the more small cell wireless facilities a provider installs, the better 5G coverage it can offer in our area. Residential neighborhoods, downtown Naperville and heavily trafficked roads are all places where providers want to install this equipment. As long as a small cell wireless facility application meets standards for safety, adheres to state law and does not interfere with public safety communications or utilities, the City must approve it.

How do I learn about the status of small cell wireless facilities in my area?

Visit the City’s interactive map which shows streetlight and utility poles in the City. This map identifies where small cell wireless facilities are in the plan-review stage, where they have received permits to be constructed, and where they are completed.

Who do I call with questions about small cell wireless facilities?

For a specific small cell wireless facility, visit the City’s interactive map to find contact information for the wireless service provider associated with the equipment.