Small cell installations face city regulations

Installations have focused on downtown, Cheesman Park and Capitol Hill neighborhoods but will expand


In order to meet the current 4G voice and data demands of businesses and consumers, as well as prepare for future upgrades to 5G speed service, all of the wireless carriers are having to expand their infrastructure using a decentralized small-cell approach in business and neighborhood areas.

Using a decentralized small-cell approach means putting installations in the public right-of-way (the area between the street curb and sidewalk), which is allowed by federal and state law. These small cell local installations are dramatically different than the past large cell towers covering large geographical areas.

As with many improvements, unintended consequences will occur. When the first carrier began its small cell installations, their 30-foot-high infrastructure poles were proposed for any area within the right-of-way. With the pole issue in mind, there was great concern on the possibility of one or more 30-foot-high poles being located in front of residential properties and in our parks.

As a first step, Councilman Wayne New contacted Xcel Energy’s local and corporate offices to get a co-location policy approved by Xcel. This policy would allow the wireless carrier to install equipment on an existing street light pole, eliminating the need to install an additional 30-foot-pole. With Xcel’s approval of a co-location policy, the Denver Public Works Department worked with Xcel and the city attorney to mitigate the effects of these installations and develop specific regulations to govern the small-cell infrastructure program. These regulations were approved by the city.

The following key regulations now manage the small cell infrastructure program:

Each small cell infrastructure pole installation is allowed by an individual revocable permit, which means the installation permit can be revoked due to regulation non-compliance.

Installations are preferred in the following locations:

• Closest to the corner of two intersecting streets

• Within alleys

• Closest to the common side-yard property line between adjacent properties

• Co-location with an existing applicable street light pole

• Placed equidistant between street trees, with a minimum separation of 15 feet

Installations are not to be located in the following areas:

• Between the street-facing wall plane of any single- or two-family residential structure and the adjacent street centerline (not in front of the home)

• Within 250 feet from any other freestanding small cell infrastructure

• In front of properties designated as federal, state or local historic landmarks

• Along the frontage of city public parklands

The small cell infrastructure program has initially focused on installations in the higher-density areas of downtown, Capitol Hill and Cheesman Park. This program will eventually affect all Denver areas and neighborhoods as the demand for 5G service increases.

Additional information and pictures of installation examples can be found at In addition, the Public Works’ Small Cell Infrastructure Program entrance requirements can be accessed at If you should have any questions about a small cell pole installation at your property, contact Councilman Wayne New at 720-337-7710.


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