Response to City of Kingston’s 5G webpage

We are pleased that the City of Kingston is acknowledging the concerns of citizens about 5G by creating a webpage entitled “5G Networks and Kingston”. In this post, we provide our insights and comments on the City’s “Local FAQ” section. We have reprinted the FAQs and answers they posted. Our responses appear in the grey boxes.

1. Does the City or Utilities Kingston have any 5G contracts?

Neither the City, nor Utilities Kingston has any service contracts for 5G service.

K4ST: 5G service is not here yet, but the when it arrives the infrastructure – which will include “small cell antennas” – will not appear magically out of thin air. That is why the carriers are working now to install the infrastructure globally so that when they decide to flip the switch in any given jurisdiction, they will have the necessary equipment in place.

2. I see small antennas on some Streetlight and Hydro poles around Kingston, what are those?

Telecom service providers are deploying “small-cell” antennas. These are used to augment or fill in gaps in the existing 4G cellular network. These are an alternative to building large cellular towers.

K4ST: Small cell antennas are adding to the 4G network, not replacing it. Bell is installing them in Kingston in areas which already have excellent coverage by large cell towers. The large cell towers are not going anywhere. The new 4G/5G system will require a massive enhancement of 4G because it will still use 4G extensively.

The map below shows the small cell antennas in the Woodhaven area in Cataraqui Woods, Kingston. The cluster of blue markers represent Bell small cell antennas. The white and red (behind the white) are Freedom and Rogers towers. The tower on the bottom left of the page is the large Bell tower at the quarry on Collins Bay Road. It has 66 transceivers on it, showing that Woodhaven does not need fill-in or enhanced 4G coverage. (This map can be found here and searching for Kingston.)

Other small cell installations can be found downtown on Princess St, Brock St, King St E, and Clarence St and around Queen’s University on Albert St, University Av, Frontenac St, Earl St, and Union St.

3. Are any small cell antennas in Kingston providing 5G service?

So far as the City and Utilities Kingston know, none of the small cell antennas installed in Kingston are capable of providing 5G service.

K4ST: Industry workers refer to the small cell antennas as “5G ready”. This explainer by the IEEE shows that small cell antennas are a fundamental part of the 5G network. It also explains why 5G needs the small cells. Small cells are not needed for current 4G networks. When 5G networks are complete, they will include 4G frequencies PLUS new frequencies that are not currently being used for 4G.

If the small cells are not currently equipped with the proper antennas for the full 5G spectrum of frequencies, it is possible they will quickly be obsolete and need to be upgraded or replaced with equipment that does broadcast other frequencies. If this is true, it is an example of massive waste and planned obsolescence.

4. Could existing cell antennas on City or Kingston Hydro property that a telecom carrier has leased space on, be replaced with 5G-capable ones by the telecom carrier?

Existing antenna infrastructure could be replaced with upgraded equipment under existing lease arrangements. Such changes may have to be reviewed by Utilities Kingston, on behalf of the City or Kingston Hydro, if new equipment were to change the weight load on poles. Utilities Kingston is not aware of any 5G-capable small cell antennas operating in Kingston.

K4ST: This raises several questions. Is Utilities Kingston only allowed/able to review changes if the weight load on the poles changes? Is it otherwise obligated to allow equipment to be replaced or upgraded? Is the City of Kingston allowed to deny the lease of its infrastructure for 5G equipment?

5. Can the City or Kingston Hydro cancel existing leases for radio communication infrastructure?

Permits that allow antenna owners to attach to Kingston Hydro or City poles contain a clause which would allow Kingston Hydro or the City to remove any 5G-capable small cell antennas attached to their properties.  However, antenna-owners could attach to attach to their own privately-owned poles. 

K4ST: This seems like good news. If the City of Kingston/Utilities Kingston can offer even better broadband through their own Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network, we can be true climate leaders. A community-owned FTTH network would represent massive energy savings compared to a wireless network and would keep profits in our community. A FTTH network would be faster, more reliable, more resilient in the face of climate change/disasters, more cyber-secure, and better for our health and well-being. Please see the following websites/resources for information, including economic arguments for why FTTH is the way to go.

Re-Inventing Wires: The Future of Landlines and Networks” (PDF), National Institute for Science, Law & Public Policy, Washington, DC, 2018

What Fibre to the Home can do for your community” (PDF), Fibre to the Home Council Europe, 2013

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance: Broadband, (webpage) US

Connected Communities: For Local Governments, (webpage) Canada

Community Broadband, (website) Canada

Why we need a speed limit for the internet” Low Tech Magazine, by Kris DeDecker, 2015

What Is 5G: Energy Consumption, (webpage) US

More Questions for the City of Kingston/Utilities Kingston

  1. With absolutely no pre-market consumer safety testing done on 5G technology, the assumption that there are not adverse effects to health or harm to the environment is inappropriate. Is the City of Kingston indemnified from the risk of liability from the fallout of potential negative effects of 5G? Does the City or Utilities Kingston or its partner, Bell, carry any insurance to protect against future claims (i.e. injury, ill health, or decline in property value)?
  2. The City of Kingston has approved an agreement to engage in a public-private partnership with Bell to employ Bell’s “Smart City” platform including the application of the “Internet of Things”. These are hallmarks of the proposed 5G infrastructure. Does this agreement exist in the form of a contract between the City of Kingston or Utilities Kingston and Bell?

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