G2 Consulting Group is experiencing robust activity in its core cellular tower services as a result of this summer’s Federal Communications Commission actions to facilitate the faster deployment of 5G networks nationwide.

Stating that “next generation networks are critical to expanding economic opportunities and supporting public health and safety in American communities,” the FCC directed that “state or local government shall approve within 60 days any request for modification of an existing structure that does not substantially change the physical dimensions of that structure.”

G2 Consulting supports the FCC action to help the industry meet booming demand for mobile data at greater speeds and bandwidth. The firm is working with its telecomm clients to assess new and existing cellular towers to ensure they meet all local, state and federal regulations required to achieve the accelerated rollout.

“Although the industry agrees that 5G is the future, it won’t immediately replace other networks or their small cell and distributed antennae system counterparts,” said  Anthony Poisson, P.E., from G2’s Chicago office.  “Adding or replacing tower technologies and building new small cell sites requires careful due diligence, an area where G2 Consulting is uniquely qualified to help.”

Poisson suggests the following as due diligence best practice:

1.) Ground conditions: Understanding the geotechnical and geoenvironmental conditions on-site is critical for cellular towers. Not only do you have to ensure the tower foundation structure is stable, operators also have to understand if adding or subtracting weight will impact its posture.  Meanwhile, the National Environmental Policy Act has strict rules in place to govern cell tower ecological impact that need to be followed.

2.) Regulatory environment: Although the FCC governs much of cellular tower regulation, the myriad of other local, state, federal and tribal authorities laws are equally important. G2 is certified in 35 states for cellular tower projects and can help clients understand the complex web of regulations.

3.) Macro towers: Some carriers are upgrading existing towers with 5G capabilities, effectively integrating new infrastructure into the current network. It’s important to note that these existing cell towers may also continue transmitting 4G signals and contain other hardware for respective service areas.  Integrating the new tech requires careful coordination.

4.) Small cell: In addition to towers, 5G coverage will require carriers to add at least 250,000 new small cell sites nationwide. However, though these small cell technologies perform similar functions, they’re not your typical cell tower. While most current cell towers are large, freestanding structures, the small cell “towers” required by 5G are much smaller devices that can be mounted on existing infrastructure like traffic lights, lampposts, rooftops or other appropriate spot in urban spaces where licensing and construction issues are particularly difficult.

5.) Securing older equipment: With all the talk of new technologies, it’s easy to forget that many towers have been around for 25 years or more.  Further, most of the tower equipment is located at or near the tower’s highest point.  This “pressure at the top” cause structural stress over time. Tower companies need to shore up these older sites both to bring them into current code and to ensure they can safely accommodate the new equipment.

“5G has been in the works for years, however the COVID pandemic has underscored the need to improve communications infrastructure.  The challenge now is to ensure a smooth, safe and efficient roll-out, which are areas where G2 can help,” Poisson said.