Insights

Transitioning Telecom: New Equipment for Increased Data Access

Telecom Today

Every day, we use our phones to connect with friends and family, share memories and quickly access information. In doing so, we plug into a vast data network established by cellular sites around the country. Currently, the fastest network most phones can connect to is the fourth generation (4G) network, which is comprised of a series of macrosites.

Macrosites are all around us but often go unnoticed and fade into our everyday landscape. They can be installed on towers, buildings, water towers or utility poles, where radio and antenna are affixed and connected via fiber optic cable to provide data service to customers. Each macrosite sends a signal that can travel up to five miles within its line of sight. In areas where there are high volumes of streaming, such as a college campus or arena, you may find additional macrosites within a smaller radius. These capacity sites increase data access when there are many users in one place. 

This macrosite is located outside of a high school in Hilliard, Ohio. It is camouflaged between the stadium lights, speakers and scoreboard to stealthily provide data service to the community.

Next Generation Equipment

Telecom companies are installing new equipment to create the fifth generation (5G) network and improve service for customers. This 5G network will be made up of dense, powerful “small cell” equipment affixed to the top of a utility pole. The small cell sites will have a much smaller data radius than the macrosites, measured in feet rather than miles, meaning there could be thousands of small cell sites in one area to provide full coverage to a community. To limit the number of new sites, telecom companies will look to collocate some new small cell sites on existing 4G sites, but additional small cell sites will still need to be installed to have complete coverage in one area.

The process to build the 5G network has already begun. Burgess & Niple (B&N) does site civil work and utility coordination to help clients obtain zoning and building permits. During Phase I of this transition, B&N prepared over 100 test sites to establish the network in Northeast Ohio. Thousands of site visits will take place over the coming years to plan for the installation of additional sites in this area as well as in Dayton and Toledo, Ohio.

The data connection from these new 5G sites will be stronger, increasing system capacity and allowing more devices to connect at a time. Eventually, homes will be able to rely on this signal for cable and internet, cutting the need for a cable cord.

Preparing for the Transition

Communities and companies must prepare in their own ways for the construction and installation of these additional sites for access to the benefits of 5G. Telecom companies need to make significant preparations for building the network, including site civil engineering, utility coordination and test sites. They will also have to adhere to zoning laws and obtain building permits to begin work. Communities where sites are being installed may consider creating aesthetic guidelines to ensure equipment blends in with the surrounding area.

As the transition to 5G begins, 4G will remain intact to be used in conjunction with 5G and ensure there no data disruptions. Though it will take years of planning, installation and testing to fully launch 5G across the country, consumers can look forward to faster, higher-capacity data service without wires.

Scott Holliday, PE, Project Manager
Scott Holliday, PE
Project Manager