Small cell antennas are the backbone for the roll-out of 5G networks. However, a significant problem exists with them: building regulations.
If telecom operators plan to build a dense network of small cell antennas over the next few years, it will most likely require a lowering of construction regulations. Right now – depending on local laws – a telecom operator that wants to install an antenna needs to ask for a permit. It can take months for a permit to be granted. This is feasible when the mobile network relies on a smaller number of macro antennas, but if they are placing thousands of small cell antennas throughout cities, the waiting time becomes problematic.
Because of this, some regulators are pushing for a more 'permitless' environment for small cell antennas, in which telecom operators would be able to install them without going through existing permit systems.
The EU approved regulations in June 2020 to help facilitate the introduction of small cells, arguing that small cells should be exempt from individual town planning permits or other individual prior permits. Changes are also taking place within the member states. In the Netherlands, for instance, local governments have protested against a measure by the central government that allows for easy installation of 5G antennas on government buildings.