Small Cell Infrastructure

To regulate the applications for small cell installations from telecommunication companies, the City of San Mateo has established a comprehensive design review and approval process.

Applicants can only propose installation of equipment on existing poles and must work in conjunction with macrocells (cell towers) already in place to provide wireless coverage. Small cell antennas are not stand-alone cell towers.

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Current Status

We are currently accepting new telecom permits. We review telecom permits using the Federal Communications Commission’s guidelines and our own codified ordinance

The City adopted ordinance (SMMC 17.10) in 2018 that established a process for wireless telecommunication sites in the public right-of-way. The City’s ordinance and the corresponding standards were adopted shortly before the Federal Communications Commission adopted its 2018 order addressing small cell approval procedures. In September 2020, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed most of the FCC’s requirements, including that small cells be approved under reasonable standards within a 60/90-day shot clock period. 

Given the new legislation, it is recommended that the City amend ordinance SMMC 17.10 and the corresponding standards to provide a streamlined process and objective standards. On Nov.12, 2020 Public Works staff will provide an update to the Sustainability and Infrastructure Commission on this recommendation. By early 2021, staff will bring the recommended changes to the commission to receive public feedback and recommendations for City Council approval. To stay informed of commission agendas, visit:

As of January 2020, there are three companies with Master License Agreements to install small cell facilities in our City. Please reference the small cell map above for additional information on applications currently under review.

What Does a Small Cell Installation Look Like?

The photos below show a small cell installed at the top of the light and utility poles.

  1. Related Documents
  2. Public Meetings
  3. Contact Information

Adopted Ordinance and Design & Engineering Standards

Documents for Telecommunications Applicants

Adopted Fee Schedule

Radio Frequency (RF) Hazard Questions