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Ask The Answer Person: "Why did the Decorah City Council approve putting 5G equipment on some light poles?"

Posted: Sun, Mar 8, 2020 4:09 PM

(Numerous people have been asking The Answer Person variations of the same question: "Why did the Decorah City Council approve putting 5G equipment on some light poles?"  Here is the answer):

The Answer Person says: "First of all, the Iowa Legislature a year or two ago passed a bill which restricted the ability of local governments to reject an application from cell phone companies to use public property such as lamp posts as a place to put up cell phone equipment.  That means Decorah would get in trouble with the state for rejecting such applications.

But, more importantly, the cell phone equipment which Verizon and U.S. Cellular are putting up is NOT 5G equipment.

The equipment going up on several city lamp posts is what is called a "small cell network."  These networks have become more popular as smartphones have handled more and more data.  Mobile data traffic grew 54 percent in 2017, the last year for which there are statistics.  That put stress on the network of cell phone towers.

In response, cell phone companies have switched to these small cell networks--a series of small low-powered antennas—sometimes called "nodes"—that provide coverage and capacity in a similar way to a tower, but also use fiber optic cable, which means they are able to handle massive amounts of data at fast speeds. 

Another advantage of this equipment is that it is usually attached to existing utility poles or streetlights, which makes them more discreet, while also bringing them closer to smartphones. 

In short, fewer big towers, more small cell networks—and no 5G in Decorah!"