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Wireless Infrastructure FAQ

5G Introduction

What is 5G?

5G is a catch-all phrase for the ‘fifth generation mobile network’. It is the next evolution in mobile and wireless technology. Learn more about 5G technology here​.

What is the difference between 5G and 4G technology?

4G and earlier generations required the use of macro cell sites such as towers and rooftop antennas or masts, to access voice and data services. 5G will overlay 4G networks and evolve existing 3G and 4G capabilities, delivering faster connections and greater capacity, and significant economic benefits.

Unlike previous generations of mobile technology, the successful implementation of 5G will require a densified network of small cell sites, attached to City and private assets.

What are macro cells?

The term macro cell refers to a high power cellular base station used by wireless service providers to provide cellular network coverage to a large area, ranging from a few kilometres up to tens of kilometres. A macro cell panel is, on average, one to five metres tall.

Macro cell base stations have power outputs of typically tens of watts and are found on towers and rooftops. Macro sites are typically shared by more than one wireless service provider which may include multiple antennas, radios, equipment cabinets, support masts/structures, power and fibre (cable) backhaul (underground and overhead) that connects a wireless service providers core network to the small cell technology.

What are small cells?

The term small cell refers to a low-powered cellular radio access node that wireless service providers may attach to poles, buildings, etc. to improve cellular network coverage, capacity, speed and user experience.

Small cells are, on average, 30 cm by 30 cm and typically have a range of 10 to 500 metres and are generally attached at a height of 4.5 meters to 5.5 meters. Individual small cells require power, but do not require a cabinet. In order for the small cell technology to work, it requires fibre (cable) backhaul (underground and overhead) that connects a wireless service providers core network to the small cell technology.

What are the benefits of 5G over 4G for Calgarians and businesses?

The next generation of wireless networks - 5G - has been described as:

  • a critical step for building connected, resilient and smart cities that will support technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT) which refers to the connection of devices and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
  • ‘infrastructure for innovation’ upon which governments, academia, small-and-medium businesses and industry will enable a wide range of applications such as autonomous vehicles, remote care, smart metering and integrated public safety.

How has wireless technology evolved?

  • 1G was introduced in 1982 to support analog voice.
  • 2G was introduced in 1991 to support digital voice and text messaging.
  • 3G was introduced in 1998 to support data and multimedia service (like email).
  • 4G/LTE was introduced in 2008 to support IP voice and data, as well as video and mobile internet service.
  • 5G – the latest generation – is designed to support the Internet of Things and Big Data (like connected/autonomous cars, factory robotics, smart cities, etc.).

When will 5G be rolled out?

5G technology is still mostly in the development phase, but there are pockets of deployments in a few areas across the globe. Roll out will depend on the wireless service providers’ investment commitments, which are generally market driven.

A big factor for the launch of 5G in Canada is related to the necessity for wireless service providers to acquire access to the radio frequency spectrum. The radio frequency spectrum, to which access is managed by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), is a unique and finite resource from which all aspects of society benefit. It provides Canadians access to a range of private, commercial, consumer, defense, national security, scientific and public safety applications. It is the only resource that can support practical wireless communications in everyday situations.

In order for 5G to make its debut, the Government of Canada will need to hold additional spectrum auctions; the process used to assign spectrum licences. Spectrum auctions for 5G began in March 2019 with the 600MHz band. On June 5, 2020, the Federal Government of Canada announced a six-month postponement of the 3500 MHz spectrum auction process and its associated key dates to allow the telecommunications industry to maintain its focus on providing essential services to Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. The auction is now scheduled to start on June 15, 2021.

5G Resources and Related Research

City of Calgary's role

What is The City’s role?

To support innovation and remain an attractive place to start or grow a business, The City’s role is to provide a streamlined approach for wireless service providers (Rogers, Shaw/Freedom Mobile, TELUS etc.) to make an inquiry about access to City-owned infrastructure for the deployment of wireless infrastructure.

Wireless service providers may search online for City-owned assets (e.g. street lights, buildings, land for macro towers) and submit a site feasibility request. If the site is deemed feasible, they may apply for site access. The City of Calgary reviews and grants access to City-owned assets with a focus on design, location and structural considerations.

In addition, the wireless service providers must abide by all the terms and conditions outlined in The City of Calgary Telecommunication Antenna Structures Siting Protocols.

The City’s review does not assess or evaluate health and radiofrequency exposure. Health concerns relating to radiofrequency, energy, and safety fall under the national jurisdiction of Health Canada.

Is The City the approving authority?

While The City of Calgary grants access to City-owned assets, The City is not the final approving authority for telecommunications antennas. Approval comes from the Government of Canada with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) as the approving authority for the development and operation of radiocommunication in Canada, including telecommunications antennas, pursuant to the Radiocommunication Act and the Radiocommunication and Broadcasting Antenna Systems procedures.

In cases where The City does not support a proposal, it cannot prevent a wireless service provider from ultimately gaining permission from ISED to install a telecommunications antenna even if it may contravene The City of Calgary Telecommunication Antenna Structures Siting Protocols.

What could 5G mean for City services and Calgarians?

Potential benefits of 5G to municipal services for Calgarians in the future include Next Generation 9-1-1, smart traffic management and integrated public safety. 5G technology is new, developing and evolving. Many future benefits are unknown and immeasurable in how it will advance the safety, accessibility and lifestyles for the citizens of Calgary.

Health and safety

Are there safety limits in place for 5G and radio frequency (RF)?

Health concerns relating to radiofrequency energy and safety fall under the national jurisdiction of Health Canada.

Health Canada has established guidelines for safe exposure to RF energy, known as Safety Code 6, which utilizes very conservative limits set at least 50 times below the threshold of any potential adverse health effects. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), a government organization that regulates wireless communication technology in Canada, uses Safety Code 6 in setting its standards and regulations for RF exposure limits for wireless devices and associated infrastructure, such as antennas.

All wireless devices must meet ISED’s requirements and must be certified before being sold in Canada. Antenna installations must also meet ISED’s requirements at all times as a condition of a carrier’s licence. Canada’s mobile network operators consistently monitor their networks, and ISED audits wireless devices and antenna installations to ensure compliance with safety standards. (Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, 2019)

For more information on radio frequency, health and safety, please contact Health Canada at or visit:


Is 5G a threat to privacy?

Security concerns such as location privacy, data privacy (leakage of personal voice, health and lifestyle data, etc.) and the protection of personal information (social relationships and habits) are the responsibility of the wireless service providers.


For more information, email us at

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This information has no legal status and cannot be used as an official interpretation of the various bylaws, codes and regulations currently in effect. The City of Calgary accepts no responsibility to persons relying solely on this information. Web pages are updated periodically. ​