Frequently Asked

What is a small cell?

We only build cell sites where needed to improve service

Think of small cells as a mini- cell sites -- they support traditional macro cell towers by bolstering coverage and capacity in targeted areas where it’s most needed. Low profile, compact, scalable and unobtrusive, small cells improve network performance by densifying our network (in other words, bringing sites closer to the customer), meaning data doesn’t have to travel as far.

How are small cells installed?

We seek to attach to existing structures first and install new poles only when existing structures are unavailable

Small cells are typically used in dense urban environments with lots of demand for service and in challenging geographic environments that create coverage gaps. When placed outdoors, small cells are generally attached to existing utility poles, light poles, traffic lights in the right-of-way, but in some circumstances can be attached to exterior walls of buildings. Small cells cannot replace macro cell towers and instead complement their coverage where larger towers simply won’t fit.

How are sites selected for small cell deployment?

We consider a variety of factors. Applicable siting and permitting requirements are always taken into account. We also look to see where we might have potential performance challenges within the network and use that data to help guide where we need to target small cells. Speed, cost, flexibility and scalability are all vital to determining if small cells are the right fit.

How do you manage health and safety concerns?

We take health and safety seriously

We rigorously comply with applicable local construction requirements and with the FCC’s standards for radio frequency exposure.

What is Radio Frequency (RF)?

Wireless networks transmit voice and data using radiofrequency energy. RF is a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum (which is comprised of waves of electric and magnetic energy moving together through space)  in the “radio wave” range.

Radiofrequency transmissions are generated by and used in many modern applications, including light bulbs, baby monitors, healthcare devices, home and industrial appliances, radios, satellites, TVs, radios and cell phones. 

What do the regulators say?

The FCC relies on research and recommendations from leading public and private experts to develop its RF exposure limits. Specifically, the FCC’s RF exposure limits are based on recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE).

In December 2019, after 6+ years of public input and review, the FCC reaffirmed its RF exposure standards, finding that evidence “does not demonstrate that the science underpinning the current RF exposure limits is outdated or insufficient to protect human safety.”

In addition to FCC regulation, respected independent national and global organizations — including the American Cancer Society, the World Health Organization, and the National Cancer Institute — agree that there are no known adverse health effects from cell sites. Supported by scientific consensus, every single one of these expert institutions has adopted positions that substantiate the FCC’s conclusion: wireless communications facilities meeting current FCC RF exposure standards have no harmful effect on human health.

And, recently as February 2020, the FDA’s Center for Devices & Radiological Health completed a review of over 10 years’ worth of RF exposure data, finding that “available epidemiological and cancer incidence data continues to support the Agency’s determination that there are no quantifiable adverse health effects in humans caused by exposures at or under the current cell phone exposure limits.”

What do the experts say — at home and across the globe?


“No obvious adverse effect of exposure to low level radiofrequency fields has been discovered.”
- The World Health Organization (WHO)

“No consistent evidence for an association between any source of non-ionizing EMF and cancer has been found.”
- National Cancer Institute (NCI)

“The incidence of brain tumors in human beings has been flat for the last 40 years. That is the absolute most important scientific fact.”
- American Cancer Society (ACS)

“If these waves were dangerous, we would have died from AM/FM radios, TVs, GPS, and garage door openers a long time ago.”
- American Council on Science and Health


“There is no evidence to support adverse health effects in humans caused by exposures at, under, or even in some cases above, the current RF limits. No scientific evidence establishes a causal link between wireless device use and cancer or other illnesses.” - U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

“At this time we do not have the science to link health problems to cell phone use” - Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

“The possibility that a member of the general public could be exposed to RF levels in excess of the FCC guidelines is extremely remote.” - Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

What does the media say?

Some say 5G will cause cancer, but here’s why scientists say we do not need to worry

“According to so many reputable organizations, we just don’t have good evidence cell phone radiation is causing us harm.”

CNBC (video)
, March 27, 2019
Your 5G Phone Won’t Hurt You. But Russia Wants You to Think Otherwise

“Over the years, plenty of careful science has scrutinized wireless technology for potential health risks. Virtually all the data contradict the dire alarms, according to public officials, including those at the World Health Organization.”

New York Times
, May 12, 2019
Everything you need to know about 5G conspiracy theories

“I'll be blunt before I continue: according to experts in the scientific and medical community, as well as the World Health Organization, 5G isn't going to be a serious threat to our health. These are the types of people and organizations that have decided that we should pasteurize our milk and stop spraying DDT at mosquitos. I trust them and think you should, too.”

Android Central
, June 22, 2019
The 5G Health Hazard That Isn’t

“Should you be worried? Not really, say almost all reputable experts. It looks as if we may have been the victims of widespread medical and scientific misinformation about 5G.

New York Times
, July 16, 2019
5G—Don’t Worry About It

“Should you be worried? Not really, say almost all reputable experts. It looks as if we may have been the victims of widespread medical and scientific misinformation about 5G.
, October 31, 2019
The Science Of Why 5G Is (Almost) Certainly Safe For Humans

“If you’re not afraid of coffee or thyme, or getting a nickel with your change, you shouldn’t be afraid of 5G, or WiFi radiation in general. In the search for truth, society should rely on the full suite of scientific evidence, rather than fear or ideology, to guide us.”

, November 1, 2019
5G conspiracy theories have been debunked.

What does the industry say?

In a 2019 letter, CTIA said, “the consensus among health experts is that the weight of scientific evidence shows no known health risk to humans due to the RF energy emitted by antennas and cellphones.”

Learn more about CTIA and its members here.

I’ve been told that FCC RF rules don’t apply to mmWave or 5G spectrum. Is that true? What spectrum will be used on small cells in my neighborhood?

That is not true. The FCC RF exposure limits apply to all spectrum up to 100 GHz, including the mmWave spectrum between 24 and 40 GHz that some carriers are using to deploy 5G services. In the foreseeable future, AT&T small cell facilities will operate at frequencies below 40 GHz and RF exposure to the general public at those facilities is as low as 200 times below the FCC limits.

Are there any adverse health effects related to the installation of new small cell antennas in my city/neighborhood?

Wireless carriers must follow FCC RF exposure limits. The FCC, based on input from respected science, engineering and health organizations, has concluded that all antennas that meet its RF exposure limits have no harmful effect. AT&T’s wireless facilities — including small cell deployments — are designed and operated to comply with these FCC exposure limits.

RF is emitted from devices all around us — from light bulbs and televisions, to stereos and baby monitors. Small cell antennas, like radios, Wi-Fi hotspots, wireless routers and the like, emit low levels of RF.

Small cell facilities are different than traditional cell towers. They operate at power levels lower than traditional cell towers. Because small cells help optimize the network, use of small cells reduces the power and radio transmissions — including RF energy — mobile phones use to make calls and send data.

The FCC has set strict safety standards for RF exposure across all wireless spectrum, including that used for new technologies like 5G and mmWave. AT&T’s small cell sites will create general public exposure as low as 200 times below the FCC limits.  

Can cities or states issue their own standards or warning sign requirements related to RF frequency use in our own communities? If not, why not?

No. RF exposure guidelines are exclusively within the FCC’s authority. A Federal statute preempts cities and states from enacting their own regulations that conflict with the FCC’s, science-based RF exposure requirements.  In its December 2019 Order, the FCC reaffirmed this preemption, stating “state-level warning regimes risk contributing to an erroneous public perception or otherwise disrupt the federal regime.”

Will there be posted notices for wireless equipment in my neighborhood?

Consistent with FCC requirements, AT&T will post notices on poles and wireless equipment where a utility worker could get close enough to an antenna to be exposed to higher levels of RF energy. These notices are not directed to the general public, as exposure at ground level, at a home, or in a publicly accessible area would be far (up to 200 times) below the FCC limits for harmful effects.

Where can I find out more about wireless safety?

For more information on wireless safety, please visit:

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