The lobby group that represents Canada's wireless industry says cellphone service providers will start consulting more with homeowners and municipalities about the placement of cellphone towers in Canadian cities.

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association announced Thursday a new plan to work closely with municipalities  to "find common-sense solutions to the challenge of building Canada’s digital infrastructure while respecting local land use preferences and community concerns."

More than 26 million Canadians currently own a cellphone, and the industry says traffic on some wireless networks is increasing at a pace of five per cent per week.

Stretched capacity

All that traffic means wireless infrastructure is getting more and more strained, and the industry says in order to avoid outages, more wireless infrastructure is needed, closer to people than ever.

That means cellphone towers in cities and other populated areas, where they tend to draw complaints ranging from being an eyesore, to creating electronic interference. There are even some claims that they cause minor health problems.

To combat the backlash, the telecom lobby group says it has created the Joint Antenna System Siting Protocol, in which it promises "meaningful pre-consultations" with local landowners and authorities regarding the placement and shape of new towers.

The plan has the backing of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Under current rules, a cellphone company can put up a tower virtually anywhere it wants without any consulting, as long as the tower is less than 15 metres tall.

"Telecommunications carriers have agreed for the first time to notify municipalities of all antennas being installed before their construction, regardless of height, and to undertake full public consultation for towers under 15 meters — whenever deemed necessary by the municipality," the group said in a release.

"Canadians expect reliable, high-quality wireless service wherever they are," CWTA president Bernard Lord said. "By working together, communities and the industry can guarantee there is enough critical infrastructure in place to keep Canadians connected to the devices and technology they love, and keep our economy strong."