ROCKLAND — The expected arrival of the fifth generation of communications — known as 5G — to the city will result in utility poles being erected throughout the city.

The city’s planner wants Rockland to be ready and has proposed an ordinance to provide some regulation on their placement and design.

“As someone who sees a cell tower rather than the lighthouse, I welcome this,” City Councilor Penny York said at the Council’s Wednesday night, Jan. 4 meeting. York lives in the Pen Bay Acres neighborhood adjacent to where a controversial cell tower was erected last year.

The City Council gave initial approval Monday night. Jan. 9 to an ordinance that would offer some regulations. The vote was 4-0.

City Planner Rhett Lamb said that federal law greatly restricts what communities can regulate with the small cell tower facilities but there are some regulations that can be enacted.

The city can apply fees to applications for the cell towers but cannot charge for use of public property. Federal law requires that new applications be acted on within 90 days and use of an existing pole must be acted on within 60 days.

The 5G technology carries far more data and a very high frequency, he said. This provides better communication services but will require more poles because the transmissions don’t travel very far and can’t go through buildings. One estimate is that there will be 30 to 60 antennas per mile  for each major carrier.

“That will mean hundreds of antennas in the city,” he said.

The antennas can be attached to existing poles including streetlights.

The ordinance he is proposing would regulate the small wireless facilities that are located in the public right-of-way. The goal is that the new poles would not interfere with existing utility poles and not be placed in front of entrances or windows of buildings.

During a slideshow presentation at the Jan. 4 meeting, the planner showed examples of 5G wireless facilities. The towers will be no more than 50 feet high but if using an existing pole or replacing an existing pole, the height can be 5 additional feet.

“These antennas will have equipment on them, some the size of a mid-size refrigerator,” Lamb said.