How Many Pizza Boxes Does It Take?

How many pizza boxes does it take to equal the volume of one so-called "Small Cell" two-way microwave transmitter installation? (Hint: a lot of them.)

Let’s put to rest a prevalent marketing/branding lie – "Small Cells are the size of a pizza box" — repeated by the CTIA, Wireless Carriers, and legislators. Here is the evidence for this hard-to-believe-it-would-ever-work attempt to "fool all of the people all the time".

First, here are some actual pizza boxes:

Domino’s Extra Large: 16.25 in. x 16.25 in. x 2.00 in. = 0.30 cubic feet

Domino’s Small: 10.25 in. x 10.25 in. x 1.75 in. = 0.10 cubic feet

Second, this was said in the US Senate on 3/2/17:

Scott Bergmann, VP, CTIA – The Wireless Association in his 3/2/2017 Testimony to the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation:

"Right now today there are challenges both with the local zoning process and, as you mentioned, with federal agencies, so we would certainly appreciate this committee’s attention to finding opportunities to right size that process so that we exclude small cells where appropriate that are the size of a pizza box or a lunch box. I don’t think anyone thinks it’s a process that applies to a 200-foot tower should apply, when you are putting a lunch box on top of an existing building."

And again in the CA Senate on 4/4/17:

CA Senator Ben Hueso reading a CTIA-provided script, written by lawyers and lobbyists from ALEC in his 4/4/17 testimony to the CA Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee:

"Building the wireless network of tomorrow requires the rapid deployment of small cell [structures] often no larger than a pizza box — and that’s a small pizza box [audience laughter] and you can see it here [more audience laughter]. We brought an example of one.

. . . Which was the only demo prop that Vice Chair Morrell allowed into the 4/4/17 CA Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee Hearing on SB.649; the demo prop brought by Opposition (shown below) was not allowed — an obvious act of discrimination.

Still in that Same 4/4/17 CA Senate Hearing for SB.649:

Steve Carlson, Lobbyist, CTIA – The Wireless Association in his 4/4/17 Testimony to the CA Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee:

(Carlson stands up and hefts the antenna with two hands to shoulder level)

"This is the refrigerator that some people have been talking about."

No . . . we were talking about all that extra equipment that accompanies every pole-mounted two-way microwave transmitter, shown below.

Sure, just show the tip of the iceberg and never mention . . .
the refrigerator-size equipment cabinets needed for each microwave transmitter.

A pizza box? Really guys? Does that look like a pizza box that you have ever seen? Why are you even trying to tell these obvious lies?

So, how many actual pizza boxes does it take to equal the volume of one so-called "Small Cell" installation . . . Let’s find out.

I measured, did the math, built an accurate demo prop, and brought it to the 4/4/17 hearing on SB.649. The prop, the photos, and the math do not lie. I cannot say the same for the Wireless companies, the CTIA, their lobbyists, or the legislators.

In a blatant act of discrimination, Sen. Morrell did not allow Opposition to show its demo, but allowed Support to show theirs. We then photographed someone standing in the demo box at Costco before printing our 30" x 20" poster for the next SB.649 Hearing on 4/25/17 to show just how large 35 cubic feet actually is: larger than the largest home refrigerator you can buy at Costco, Lowe’s or Home Depot.

This is 35 cubic feet — which will contain multiple large power supplies, batteries fans and more.

Does anyone want these ugly utility boxes littering the sidewalks of their neighborhood next to every utility pole and street light? Not surprisingly, NO.

Yup. These "Small Cell" installations will be prime graffiti targets, as well.

And why do these boxes for ancillary equipment need to be so large? The answer to that question is very chilling because the antennas and power supplies in these so-called "Small Cell" installations are a hundred times more powerful than what is needed to meet the service goals stated in the RF/MW radiation reports of the planning documents.

Here is how a Refrigerator-sized Ancillary Equipment Box "fits in" to the neighborhood.

Question: What keeps Crown Castle/Verizon from turning up the power on these microwave transmitters whenever they wish? Nothing. There is no RF/MW radiation or power monitoring. This is plain sandbagging. Take a look for yourself in the actual planning documents for real projects in CA cities.

Wildly Wrong Input/Output Power Specs in Actual Planning Documents

The 2017 applications and planning documents for a proposed Crown Castle/Verizon nine cell tower project in Piedmont, CA say that the Effective Radiated Power (ERP) for one microwave transmitter in any direction would be 1,790 watts, representing simultaneous operation at 1,540 watts for 2100 MHz service and 250 watts for 700 MHz service, when powered with about 110 watts of input power; but why, then, install antennas that can accept 300 to 500 watts of input power? The following specs for the so-called “Small Cell” microwave transmitter is straight from the Crown Castle Planning documents submitted to the City of Piedmont, CA: 4.65 cubic feet in volume, with input power listed as (6x) 500 Watts and (12x) 300 Watts.

To review . . . actual Pizza Boxes are small, as you would expect:

  • Pizza Box (a Domino’s Extra Large) = 16.25″ x 16.25″ x 2.00″ = 0.30 cubic feet
  • Pizza Box (a Domino’s Small) = 10.25″ x 10.25″ x 1.75″ = 0.10 cubic feet

And SB.649 specifies much larger specs in cubic feet:

  • A so-called "Small Cell" antenna is not larger than 6 cubic feet
  • A so-called "Micro wireless" antenna is a "Small Cell" Antenna that is not larger than "24 inches in length, 15 inches in width, and 12 inches in height", which is 2.5 cubic feet

. . . but that’s not all because SB.649 also says:

  • For each installation, the cumulative total of associated equipment on pole structures will not exceed 21 cubic feet.
  • For each installation, the cumulative total of any ground-mounted equipment along with the associated equipment on any pole or non-pole structure will not exceed 35 cubic feet.
  • These volume calculations exclude electric meters and any required pedestal, concealment elements, any telecommunications demarcation box, grounding equipment, power transfer switches, cutoff switches, vertical cable runs for the connection of power and other services, equipment concealed within an existing building or structure, the wireline back haul facility, the coaxial or fiber optic cables and the underlying vertical infrastructure. Whew! That’s a lot of exclusions. The sizes of these items remain unregulated and so we can look forward to hideously ugly, graffiti-marked installations, like the one shown, above.

Conclusion: each installation could easily be larger than 35 cubic feet

  • That means larger than 115 large pizza boxes, or
  • Larger than 350 small pizza boxes
  • Either way, it is clear that a "Small Cell" installation is not the size of a pizza box

Of course, none of this actually matters because this whole exercise is just one big fat shell game to distract legislators from the ominous "OR" that Verizon, AT&T and the CTIA slipped into the Bill’s definitions, right under the legislators’ noses in a late Assembly edit — a simple word that allows cell towers of any size to go into the public right of way — WITH NO SIZE LIMITS AT ALL THANKS TO THAT SNEAKY "OR"
— which you can read for yourself below, taken directly from the SB.649 text.

[State Bill 649 is] an act to add Sections 65964.2 and 65964.5 to the Government Code, relating to telecommunications.

SEC. 2. Section 65964.2 is added to the Government Code, to read:

. . .

65964.2. (g) For purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meanings:

   (1) "Feasible design and collocation standards" means reasonable and objective specifications concerning the physical structure, construction, location, and appearance of a small cell, provided that those specifications facilitate the installation of the small cell and may be waived by the city or county on a nondiscriminatory basis.

   (2) "Micro wireless facility" means a small cell that is no larger than 24 inches in length, 15 inches in width, 12 inches in height, and that has an exterior antenna, if any, no longer than 11 inches.


      (A) "Small cell" means a wireless telecommunications facility, as defined in paragraph (2) of subdivision (d) of Section 65850.6,

Section 65850.6 (2)(d): "Wireless telecommunications facility" means equipment and network components such as towers, utility poles, transmitters, base stations, and emergency power systems that are integral to providing wireless telecommunications services.

          OR a wireless facility that uses licensed or unlicensed spectrum and that meets the following qualifications:

         (i) The small cell antennas on the structure, excluding the associated equipment, total no more than six cubic feet in volume, whether an array or separate.

         (ii) Any individual piece of associated equipment on pole structures does not exceed nine cubic feet.

         (iii) The cumulative total of associated equipment on pole structures does not exceed 21 cubic feet.

         (iv) The cumulative total of any ground-mounted equipment along with the associated equipment on any pole or non-pole structure does not exceed 35 cubic feet.

         (v) The following types of associated ancillary equipment are not included in the calculation of equipment volume:

            (I) Electric meters and any required pedestal.

            (II) Concealment elements.

            (III) Any telecommunications demarcation box.

            (IV) Grounding equipment.

            (V) Power transfer switch.

            (VI) Cutoff switch.

            (VII) Vertical cable runs for the connection of power and other services.

            (VIII) Equipment concealed within an existing building or structure.

      (B) "Small cell" includes a micro wireless facility.

      (C) "Small cell" does not include the following:

         (i) A wireline back haul facility, which is defined to mean a facility used for the transport of communications data by wire from wireless facilities to a network.

         (ii) Coaxial or fiber optic cables that are not immediately adjacent to or directly associated with a particular antenna or collocation.

         (iii) Wireless facilities placed in any historic district listed in the National Park Service Certified State or Local Historic Districts or in any historical district listed on the California Register of Historical Resources or placed in coastal zones subject to the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission.

         (iv) The underlying vertical infrastructure.

We have the CA Senate and CA Assembly to thank for this terrible Bill, SB.649, which narrowly passed the CA Senate (22 Ayes vs 18 Noes/NVR) and the CA Assembly (46 Ayes vs. 33 Noes/NVR) — with just one day to spare. It’s up to Governor Jerry Brown to veto SB.649 and save California from this Wireless disaster.