Service Providers – The firms that provide the spectrum for the general public to use for cell phones and more recently smart phones. Most are licensed (protected from interference) by the federal government but the industry includes those with unlicensed (or protected) spectrum. Service Providers are allowed special exemptions from local codes by the federal government.
Tower Owners – The firms that provide the support structures for the use of Service Providers - usually towers or rooftop facilities. These firms are not protected by the federal and most state governments, and they are required to follow all zoning codes because they have no special exemptions, unless by state regulations.
Site Acquisition –These are firms or individuals that receive general location requirement information from the Service Providers or Tower Owners for a new facility. Their responsibility is to identify a location that fits the needs of the applicant, is available for use and as close as possible conforms to the local zoning conditions.
The location of antennas used for transmitting radio signals and wireless data is critical to attaining an optimum functioning wireless telecommunications network. With the deployment of first generation wireless (1G), there were only two competing wireless cellular providers. However with the deployment of second generation wireless (2G), additional frequencies became available allowing the entry of many competing Personal Communications Services (PCS) providers. Enhanced Specialized Mobile Radio (ESMR or commonly known as Nextel) followed, and the wireless market place became extremely competitive. "Speed to market" and "location, location, location" were the slogans for the competing 1G and 2G providers. The next generation of technology has been launched in the United States with the iPhone from Apple. This technology is referred to as third generation wireless (3G). The iPhone have now sold more than 26 million units for 3G technology, all requiring new sites and now Verizon has announced a transition to 4G technologies. What does this mean to the City? That more sites will be necessary and a proactive plan is a necessity.
Sharing base station locations initially was not part of the industry strategy and each wireless provider sought to have the fastest deployment and better service in order to develop the largest customer base, which would result in a quick return on their cost of deployment. The results were predictable and towers began to appear everywhere, much of the time in an ad hoc method, devoid of local land use planning and management by the service providers.
Coincidently, as local governments desired to control the proliferations of new towers and began to adopt development standards for the wireless communications industry, the wireless industry strategy changed. The industry found it more difficult to develop their facilities and get a return on their investment. As more stringent rules were applied to the development of new tower sites; the industry found it increasingly difficult to provide the services to the general population.
No longer was a tower being built for an individual wireless service provider, but for a multitude of potential new tenants who would share the facility without the individual cost of building, owning and maintaining the facility. Sharing antenna space on the tower between wireless providers is called collocation.
This industry change could have been benefited for local governments who adopted new tower ordinances requiring collocation as a way to reduce the number of new towers. But, it did not; because the vertical real estate business model for new towers is founded on tall tower structures intended to support as many wireless providers as possible. As a result, local landscapes became dotted with all types of towers and communities began to adopt regulations to prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting wireless communication towers within their jurisdictional boundaries.
Wireless deployment came to a halt in many geographical areas as all involved in wireless deployment became equally frustrated with the situation. Second generation wireless providers had paid a large sum of money for the rights to provide wireless services, the license agreements between the wireless providers and the FCC mandated the networks be deployed within a specific time period and local government agencies were prohibiting the deployments through new zoning standards.
This perplexing situation prompted the adoption of Section 704 of the Federal Telecommunication Act of 1996 (the Act).