New Jersey towns struggle as small cells ramp up: report

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Verizon's attempts to ramp up small-cell deployment in northern New Jersey are running into the same barriers that hinder small cells elsewhere: Most property owners and managers have little experience selling or leasing small-cell space to carriers, and often have difficulty gaining access to them.

Verizon is ramping up small-cell deployments in northern New Jersey, and some municipalities are struggling to find ways to manage the rollout—Just like towns of all sizes across the U.S.

NorthJersey.com reported that the nation’s largest carrier “is blanketing” cities in the region with small transmitters placed on utility poles and other public structures. Verizon wouldn’t disclose how many requests were issued or small cells have been installed, but municipal employees are scrambling to understand the complex legalities regarding rights-of-way involved in such deployments.

"The single biggest concern is that if you sign an agreement to install nodes in a right-of-way, you must allow any subsequent company access under the same terms,” said Michael J. Darcy, executive director of the League of Municipalities, NorthJersey.com reported. “We’re encouraging municipalities to look at neutral ordinances regulating the number of devices in a given area so we don’t have a 'wild west’ of 50 nodes on every street.”

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The story was picked up by Inside Towers, which covers the tower and small-cell markets.

The small-cell market in the U.S. has fallen short of expectations over the last two years as carriers, as landlords and other players in the value chain slowly develop processes for deploying and launching the transmitters. Carriers must find optimal locations and then negotiate terms with countless local landowners, and some rollouts have been delayed due to zoning problems and other municipal issues. Similarly, most property owners and managers have little experience selling or leasing space to carriers, and often have difficulty gaining access to them.

“The problem with small cells is that they’re not like a tower where there’s a known process,” said Iain Gillott of iGR told FierceWireless late last year. “There’s an established model there for a tower. That does not exist for a small cell. It’s as simple as that.”

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