George Washington didn't tweet here, but you may get 5G

New FCC rules make it easier to get permission to install small cells on old structures

Some people frown on Pokémon Go hunts in historic areas, but a new FCC ruling could make it even more tempting to risk a glare and a wagging finger.

On Monday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission announced a deal to made it easier for mobile operators and building owners to install cellular gear on many old buildings, including some in historic districts. Just because those structures may evoke the past doesn’t mean they can’t have the screaming 5G wireless speeds of the future.

While some see online addictions like Pokémon Go as intrusions on the spirit of historic sites, smaller cells are actually making it easier to sneak networks into places where network gear used to look out of place. Now equipment is so compact that the agency is lifting some regulations on where it can go.

The changes are the result of a deal between the FCC and two historic preservation groups. Among other things, mounting a small cell on a building more than 45 years old won’t require a historic review unless the building has been named a historic property or is in a historic district. A building inside a historic district may also get a break in some cases unless it's a National Historic Landmark. Rules have also been changed for DAS (distributed antenna systems), the linked antennas used in many buildings to boost indoor coverage.

As much as consumers like a good cell signal, some say the equipment that delivers it is unsightly. That’s why there are myriad federal, state and local rules for getting permission to put up wireless gear.

Now, the desire for more data capacity is converging with the urge to keep cell equipment out of sight. More and smaller cells can provide better performance than a few larger ones that need to cover whole neighborhoods. Separating components like antennas and base stations is also helping to make mobile networks less obvious.

Small cells are part of what will make 5G work. The next big cellular standard, due for completion by 2020, will have to serve more users with more data-hungry applications. Some 5G small cells will even use new, higher frequencies that are especially well suited to going short distances.

CTIA, the main trade group for U.S. mobile operators, wants the rules for mounting cell equipment to be even more streamlined.

“Americans will benefit tremendously from innovations like 5G and the Internet of Things, which require more small cell facilities – often the size of a pizza box – to build a denser network,” the group said. “Today’s action by the FCC recognizes the minimal impact of these facilities, but there is more work to be done.”

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?