Small Cell Pole Mounting

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So if you are going to mount small cells outside on poles, there are some things that you should think about. It’s more than what hardware you need. Follow along.

Before going to do the installation, have a good understanding of what you are mounting to. Don’t just grab the parts and go. I’ll go over the common types of mounts and explain. Many lessons learned here were from the Wi-Fi deployments that were done in the past 5 years or so. Many of the same issues creep up over and over again.

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Wood Poles

This could be a telephone or power pole. Basically a common utility pole. Just because you see a power line doesn’t mean there is useable power at the pole. They still need to install a meter and electric. It also will need to get through zoning and permitting. All of these are still issues with the poles.

Then you need to know what backhaul, or fronthaul connections you will be working with and make sure that they are at the pole and that they have power. Whether it’s wireless or fiber or cable modems, you need to be sure it’s ready prior to the small cell installation.

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Make sure you have all of the parts to mount to a wood pole. You may need to anchor into it or drill through it to mount the equipment. You will need the tools and part. Also, to tie down the cables you probably need screws. Make sure you wear gloves because you could get splinters. It sounds funny to say it but if you ever worked a wood pole, you know it’s no laughing matter.

What about the power and telecom zones? Do you know the height that they want to mount the equipment? If it’s in the power zone and you’re not qualified or certified to be in that area, then it’s a show stopper. Better be prepared to understand the height requirements and what’s on the pole.

Finally, grounding, you will need to ground the small cell if the OEM requires it. That means running copper down the side of the pole and maybe a ground rod. Read the scope, but also question it if they don’t have any grounding requirements before you get on site!

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Lamp Posts

So, you think a lamp-post is easier? Guess again. If you expect to use the power from the lamp then you had better do your research. They may be on a timer, they may run on high voltage, they may be on a dusk to dawn. Do you know for sure? I don’t think the carrier only wants the small cell on-line at night, but hey, it’s your reputation.

You have all the other issues that I mentioned above. You need to be aware of zoning, permitting, power, backhaul, and hardware to mount it.

Make sure that you understand the issues with the metal pole. Do you need to do a structural study on the pole? The owner may require it. It sounds like no big deal but if it topples over in the wind, guess who is to blame?

I want you to be aware of 2 really important things. If you are in a city, where most lamp posts are, then it needs to look good and be quiet. If the small cell is an eye sore, the city or municipality will not be happy and chances are you will need to make it blend in. I painted many antennas and put on red brick stickers to make the antennas look like a pole or building. If the small cell or the cabinet has loud fans, guess what, residents complain. Maybe not in the day, but if it’s residential and people live near there, then it’s complaints to the city or carrier.


Another place you may be able to mount the small cell and/or antenna is on a sign. There are ways to use signs by extending a pole or mounting the small cell in a cabinet and the antenna up on the sign. This could be a common way to mount in a city. You may need to install a new sign post. If you mount on a stop sign and someone knocks it over, then you will be dispatched to replace it. Just a word of warning. 

Remember like all the rest, you must make it look good. You need to be sure the cables are secure. You also need to be sure you have a solid ground. All the same rules but on a sign post. 


Make sure that you plan out when you need to do the installation. Do you need traffic control? Do you need to alert the city that you will be rolling a bucket truck through the city? Do you need a city employee escort? Do you need to coordinate the installation with the power company? Is the backhaul turned up and tested? Is access an issue? Do you have a copy of the permit?

I remember that one time in Montgomery, Alabama, I was doing Wi-Fi and public safety broadband installations in the city. It was a great setup because we were able to pick poles that had power and data attached! They had a great setup, all of it came from underground where they had lines running up to the poles! So in the 105 degree heat, in the sun, I was happy! Meanwhile the city workers were thinking that this damned Yankee was crazy. The one guy was so hot he said, and I quote, “ I got so much sweat running down my back into my crack that I would run a grain mill!”.

So remember to be smart, be safe, and plan ahead! Pay attention to what you’re doing!

Interested in keeping up with what I have been doing? Then subscribe to my newsletter, give me feedback to tell me about what you want to learn about small cells or deployment.

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