By Nina Beety
On June 28, 2017
in a California Assembly hearing on 5G and Senate Bill 649, Verizon, Rudy Reyes told legislators how many 5G and 4G utility pole cell towers (“small” cells or nodes) communities can expect (transcript below). These are new densified networks, above and beyond all the existing cell towers.
Verizon: “We are going to need about five to ten times the number of 5G nodes, as we will 4G LTE nodes. Just for downtown LA, Verizon alone is going to need around 200 to 300 small cells just to densify for 4G LTE. Then you have to multiply that by five to ten times for when we get to 5G.”
Industry typically minimizes the real numbers, so they could be much higher.
As an example, for downtown Los Angeles (5.84 square miles), Verizon would “need”: 300 4G cell towers + 3000 5G cell towers = 3300 new Verizon cell towers
And for Palo Alto: Verizon initially plans 93 4G LTE utility pole cell towers. Plus 930 5G Verizon cell towers = over 1000 new Verizon cell towers in Palo Alto.
That’s for Verizon 5G alone. Then you need to factor in the other companies that will also want to “play ball” – T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T, at a minimum, with other regional players wanting in as well. Each of these will likely want to stake out similar cellular “real estate” for themselves. Will that mean 4X, 5X, 6X the number of separate 5G cell towers? And how many will “collocate” — load their cell tower gear on the same utility pole with another carrier, further overloading it? No one can predict how many more towers this will result in, but either way – new tower for each company or collocation – the RF will increase exponentially with 5G.
Communities in California and other states are rolling out these utility pole cell towers now. Once a precedent is set, and one wireless carrier gets into an area, the 4G/5G expansion will be extremely difficult to stop. The time to stop these is now.
Hearing, Assembly Local Government Committee
June 28, 2017
2:35:28 – 2:39:08
Assembly Member Ridley-Thomas: ..Might you know how many towers you’ve had sited on a good year, in small cells, because I think the number in the analysis is 30-50,000 industry-wide. I don’t know if you have a perspective on California? What’s a good number in terms of siting either small cells or towers or combined?
Verizon Rudy Reyes: With the chair’s permission, I can’t tell you how many cell towers are statewide, but what I can say is that we’re going to need a lot more small cells because of the spectrum quality, that they don’t, the spectrum does not propagate as far as a cell tower. So, a cell tower might give you five to ten miles radius of coverage, but the small cells for 4G LTE densification, which you’re right, goes a few blocks. For 5G, the spectrum is going to be millimeter wave spectrum. That spectrum goes much shorter distances, maybe 100 feet and requires a line of sight. So, as you move, as Moore’s law happens, Assembly Member Vogel, and you go from the towers, to the 4G LTE small cells, to the 5G nodes, you’re going to see them get smaller in dimension and you’re going to see them get many, many more. We are going to need about five to ten times the number of 5G nodes, as we will 4G LTE nodes. So it really is about p times q, price times quantity. So this cost formula needs to pencil out in order to bring 5G to California.
Ridley-Thomas: So the nodes are substantially smaller. What size? Cause I’ve seen photos and all that. What size are they? Do we know? Are they a couple of feet?
Panel: You mean the distance.
Ridley-Thomas: The nodes. I mean the nodes for 5G.
Verizon: So the 5G nodes are currently being invented, to Assembly Member Grayson’s point. We’re in pre-trial commercial testing, and we’ve announced in 11 cities that we’re doing that right now. We’ll be doing that in the city of Sacramento in the second half of this year, if all goes well.
And then, we’re in a desperate race to be the first to deploy 5G in our country. So those nodes are expected to be significantly smaller in size than the current 4G LTE small cells.
Ridley-Thomas: The reason I started this question is to get a sense of how much installation activity there would be in a normal course versus what would be anticipated for here. In the 30-50,000 number over 5-7 years, is what the analysis suggests, so we would anticipate probably no more than 10,000 a year small cell installations? Is that kind of what we’re thinking about?
Verizon: Just for downtown LA, Assemblymember Ridley-Thomas, we’re going to, Verizon alone is going to need around 200 to 300 small cells just to densify for 4G LTE. Then you have to multiply that by five to ten times for when we get to 5G.