Consumer guide to small cells

What are small cells?

Small cells provide mobile device coverage or additional network capacity to a small geographic area. They operate at lower power than a traditional mobile phone base station and use smaller equipment. Small cells complement existing technology and work with existing sites to provide a better network experience.

Small cells can be deployed with minimal visual impact as they use smaller antennas, smaller equipment and can be co-located on existing infrastructure such as electricity and light poles.

Small cells can be used to either increase the existing network capacity or provide new coverage. Small cells are built in all areas including urban and rural communities and are suitable for residential areas.

How will I benefit?

Small cells can improve network coverage indoors and at street level. This means your service may have:

  • Less call drop outs
  • Improved internet access
  • Better network experience indoors
  • Improved data rates for all kinds of uses such as streaming services, smart homes, gaming.

This leads to greater efficiency throughout the network, improving opportunities to work and study from home, run a business on the go, keep up with family and friends online and stream video and audio in places that would otherwise be difficult. Small cells are located in places where people live, work and play so that we can get things done when where and when we need to.

What do they look like?

A small cell facility typically includes one or two external antennas(s)  and an equipment box.

Some examples of small cells are shown below:









How are Small Cells Sites Chosen?

Most small cells will be placed on existing infrastructure such as utility poles and street furniture.  There are many factors that are considered when choosing the location for small cells;

  • Network coverage requirements for the area
  • Proximity to existing sites and planned new sites
  • Existing infrastructure that can be used
  • The height of available structures
  • Free space and capacity of the structure
  • Topography and the surrounding environment

 Do small cells require local government approval?

Mobile phone carriers are required to consult with Councils, and consider their feedback.  Generally small cells are installed using the Commonwealth Telecommunications (Low-impact Facilities) Determination 2018; therefore local government approval is generally not required.

How are residents notified?

The Mobile Phone Base Station Deployment Code requires Carriers to notify Council, residents and key stakeholders in the immediate vicinity of a proposed small cell location. Interested and affected parties will be invited to provide comments on the proposal.

Are small cells safe to be near houses?

Yes. All mobile phone base stations, including small cells, must operate within safety limits set by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). These limits protect the community, including children and the elderly, 24 hours a day.

The environmental electromagnetic energy (EME) levels from small cells are reported in an ARPANSA environmental report, and are available at

Where can I get more information on Small Cells?