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Small Cell Technology (5G)

5G technology is a new and emerging technology intended to meet the ever increasing data and cellular needs of residents and businesses. This FAQ is intended to address questions about this technology.

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about small cell technology and 5G wireless service.

Note:  The information below was obtained from the following sources: Federal Communications Commission, Federal Emergency Management Agency, State of Illinois, City of Lake Forest City Code

Small Cell Technology (5G) Questions

Questions & Answers

What is the Next Generation (5G) of Wireless Telecommunications?

5G is the 5th generation of mobile data technology that has been developed in order to provide significantly increased speeds of cellular data networks and support the development of emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles and smart home products (e.g. smart thermostats, refrigerator, etc.).

Unlike older wireless technology (3G, 4G) that rely on a network of microwave dish and panel antennas that can send and receive data over a large area, 5G antennas are generally smaller in size. Because 5G antennas have a more limited coverage area of less than 1,000 feet, and must maintain line of sight between the antenna and user for effective coverage, this changes the infrastructure needed to support 5G mobile networks and technology. Rather than rely on large antennas mounted on tall transmission towers spaced apart, 5G antennas require a dense network of smaller and closely-spaced antennas that can be installed on utility poles and buildings that are closer to their user base.  

For more information about 5G, visit the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) website at

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How is 5G being enabled?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to facilitate 5G deployment throughout the United States. This strategy includes pushing the development of 5G into the marketplace by supporting network providers, updating infrastructure policies, and modernizing regulations. For more information about the FCC’s efforts visit the FCC’s 5G FAST Plan.

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What is Small Cell technology?

Small cells contain limited telecommunication equipment like antennas and radios, and are primarily attached to existing infrastructure (public streetlights or utility poles). Wireless service providers often seek small cell solutions to help complement and amplify traditional large coverage facilities such as cell towers. Because small cells are capable of transmitting a large amount of data at high speed over a small area, they are a solution to provide data capacity relief for densely populated areas as demand for wireless connectivity and service continues to surge.

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Where can I learn more about the safety of 5G and Small Cell Technology?

The City of Lake Forest has no jurisdiction over the buildout of 5G and small cell systems. In fact, the City is prohibited by Federal law from regulating radio frequency exposure – only the FCC has jurisdiction over these issues.

The FCC requires telecommunication facilities to comply with radio frequency exposure guidelines. Compliance with these guidelines ensure exposure levels remain well below those generally believed to cause adverse health effects. For more information, please visit the FCC’s web page on Radio Frequency Safety at:

A worldwide online conspiracy theory has attempted to link 5G cell phone technology as being one of the causes of the coronavirus. Many cell towers outside of the U.S. have been set on fire as a result. FEMA and the FCC issued guidance on its website on April 9, 2020 reporting that 5G technology does NOT cause coronavirus which you can find here:

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What has the State of Illinois done to enable 5G technology?

In 2018, the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act (“Act”), 50 ILCS 840/1 et seq., provides the regulations and process for permitting and deploying small wireless facilities within public rights-of-way and on private property to support the 5G wireless network. Small wireless facilities, also known as “small cell,” are most often attached to utility or other poles and enable the transmission of data and wireless communications to and from a wireless device, such as a computer, cell phone, tablet, or new “smart home” types of devices (e.g. thermostats, refrigerators, etc.). The Act states that these small wireless facilities are critical to delivering wireless access to advanced technology, broadband and 9-1-1 services to homes, business and schools in Illinois.

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Who has oversight authority over Small Cell facilities and sites?

Oversight of wireless siting is largely established by Federal Law, including the Communications Act of 1934, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the Middle-Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (the Spectrum Act). Collectively, these laws aim to facilitate and enable the deployment of wireless infrastructure and restrict local authority in review and permitting of cell sites.  Most recently, the Federal Communications Commission passed FCC-18-133 that further removes barriers to wireless infrastructure deployment and establishes “shot clocks” for processing small wireless facility applications at the local level.

Additionally, the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act, signed into law in Illinois, limits the ability for municipalities to regulate where small cell wireless facilities are located and grants wireless carriers the right to place small wireless facilities in the rights-of-way, subject to reasonable local regulations so long as they are not inconsistent with the law. 

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What authority does the City of Lake Forest have over Small Cell sites?

The Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act authorizes the City to regulate limited aspects of small cell facilities.  The Act authorizes municipalities to consider the following when reviewing and permitting small cell sites:

  • Small cell facilities must not interfere with the frequencies used for public safety communications.
  • Small cell facilities must not interfere or obstruct the use of rights-of-way by pedestrians and vehicles.
  • Structural information may be required to document the integrity of any structure on which an antenna or related equipment is proposed to be mounted.
  • Screening of facilities proposed in historic districts or on properties designated as historic landmarks. 

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What is outside of the City's authority?

  • The City of Lake Forest cannot impose a moratorium or an outright ban on the installation of small cell facilities.
  • The City cannot deny a carrier the ability to build out a system in accordance with all applicable regulations.
  • The City cannot require that an applicant place small cell facilities on any specific utility or category of utility poles.
  • The City cannot regulate the level of radio frequency emissions.

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What is the City’s process for reviewing applications for small cell facilities?

The local regulations governing small cell sites are contained in the City Code at Lake Forest Municipal Code Chapter 98.142 (Regulation of Small Wireless Facilities). This Chapter outlines proposal requirements and details small cell site development standards, zoning, permit processing, fee assessment, suitable siting locations, and other implementation criteria and requirements. Proposals must be submitted in accordance with these standards along with all applicable permits and license agreements. For more information, you may contact the Community Development Department at 847-810-3504. 

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220 E. Deerpath, Lake Forest, IL 60045
(847) 234-2600
Non-Emergency Police:  (847) 234-2601

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