Proposed features/Utility poles proposal

From OpenStreetMap Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Electric atmosphere - Streetcorner with overhead power lines under a stormy sky in Vang Vieng, Laos.jpg
Utility poles
Status: Proposed (under way)
Proposed by: Fanfouer
Tagging: man_made=utility_pole
Applies to: node
Definition: Review existing man_made=utility_pole and complete it with the use of utility=*
Drafted on: 2019-12-09
RFC start: 2020-09-08

This proposal aims to review and complete man_made=utility_pole with existing utility=* for poles intended for other activities than power transmission and distribution.
They refer to utility networks operations.


It is proposed to make man_made=utility_pole approved on nodes only to describe any pole used to support utility networks lines for telecom or power networks. This key is currently fairly well used (15k objects) and mapping practices sound to be compatible with this proposal.

utility=* will be useful to give the main or original purpose of the pole. This key is expected with one unique value for a given pole, according to rationale downside.

It is also proposed to replace less used tags regarding telecommunications communication=pole, telephone=pole, telecom=pole and pstn=pole by man_made=utility_pole + utility=telecom.

man_made=utility_pole can be combined with following existing tags

  • utility=* to give the main activity for which the pole was installed
  • material=* for the material the pole is mostly composed of
  • operator=* regarding the company in charge of the pole
  • line_attachment=* to describe how lines are attached to the pole
  • line_management=* for particular topologies arround poles
  • ref=* to mention any reference read on ground
  • height=*

Power networks can be supported by poles or towers. power=pole and power=tower are well established values for that and this proposal won't replace them.
It is nevertheless proposed to make man_made=utility_pole + utility=power implied by power=pole to link power poles to the same concepts as telephone or multi-utlity ones.
As a result, anyone interested will be able to add man_made=utility_pole + utility=power beside power=pole even if it won't be mandatory.


Utility poles are obvious features beside roads, in cities or around developed countries. They are supports for power or telecom lines, both copper and fibre to bring electricity or service to households or distant residential areas.
Particular environmental conditions could encourage countries to use them. Seismic Japan or USA West Coast aren't free to dig in the ground to hide their networks so you'll find high skills and strong overhead inafrastructure in these areas.

Such features could be easilly described in OSM on simple nodes with the help of well developped existing tagging (see upside).
They can be landmarks for hiking and useful data for networks operators as well.
As really common features, OSM need a reliable model to described many different objects. Local projects are already started and make use of man_made=utility_pole.

A pole can support several networks and different utilities. However they are often installed for a given purpose on which some side business come afterwards: we rolled out electricity networks at first and then use the same poles for telephone lines. Those poles remains (utility=power +) power=pole and won't become utility=power;telecom. This information could be obtained by post-processing and agregating all utilities crossing the node.
A given pole is pretty always operated by a single operator=*, not several. This given operator can make offers to support other utility lines without changing its own responsability for maintenance or operations or the pole nature.
Furthermore a power line is way heavier than a bunch of telephone cables. That's why power poles often host telephone lines but a telephone pole may not be reinforced to host power lines.

Logical link between poles and supported features

As it's proposed to use utility=* with a single and the most representative value for each given pole, solutions should exist to link a single pole to numerous different activities and features.
Here is a list extracted from a topic of Talk page to link many activities to poles

Concrete benefits

  • Share equivalent concepts between many fields of knowledge (power, telco, cable transport / towers, poles) and provide to mappers a common set of terms matching what they will actually see on the field.
  • Provide a robust plateform to generalize existing concepts to both power and telco networks.


Tagging is really simple. Add man_made=utility_pole on each pole, sometimes in replacement of communication=pole or telephone=pole. Also add corresponding main purpose with utility=*, often utility=ŧelecom or utility=power in combination with mandatory power=pole.

See appropriates values for utility=* to state to which activity the pole is mainly designed for.

Key Value Comment Recommendation
man_made utility_pole It's a pole supporting utility networks mandatory (except for power poles)
utlity <main utility> The purpose for which the pole was design or installed recommended
material <pole material> The material composing the pole recommended
height <height> Pole's height in meters as measured or read on ground recommended
operator <operator> Name of the company that operates the pole optional
manufacturer <Manufacturing company> Name of company that produced the pole optional
ref <reference> Abbreviation / number of the pole as seen on ground. optional
line_attachment <line attachment> Attachement mean for lines connected to that pole optional
line_management <line management> Particular topology situations around the pole optional

Edition management

Affected pages

Values to be replaced

This proposal is mainly intended to replace many telecom/communications keys with more general man_made=*. See below what values are proposed for manual replacement.

Obsolete tag Usage volumetry Used for ? New tag(s) to use
communication=pole 4 223 on 2020-08-29 A pole mainly designed to support telecom lines man_made=utility_pole + utility=telecom
telephone=pole 1 464 on 2020-08-29 A pole mainly designed to support telecom lines man_made=utility_pole + utility=telecom
telecom=pole 1 131 on 2020-08-29 A pole mainly designed to support telecom lines man_made=utility_pole + utility=telecom
pstn=pole 295 on 2020-08-29 A pole mainly designed to support telecom lines (PSTN means Public Switched Telephone Network) man_made=utility_pole + utility=telecom



Photo Location Tagging Note
Wooden power pole.jpg France


The simplest power pole you'll find in France. There are around 11 millions of them to find.

It's a wooden suspension pole holding a single minor low voltage power cable

Bending power pole Belmont western australia .jpg Australia


A branching power pole in the corner of an Australia residential street


Photo Locations Tagging Note
Wooden telecom suspension pole.jpeg France,



The simplest telecom pole you'll find in many Euorpean countries. In France, there are around 13 millions of them to find.

It's a wooden 7m tall suspension pole holding a single telecom copper cable. A growing number of telecom providers are now adding fiber along the same paths.

In Ireland, it is presumed that the vast majority of telecom poles are owned by OpenEir (a subsidiary of Eircom Limited). Very few are marked with the owner's name.


Photo Location Tagging Note
Canada telecom pole branch.jpg Canada


Let's focus on telecom lines only here despite it's a power pole holding a medium voltage line on top.

The main line goes from left to right and is suspended on the pole while a branch line starts from its anchor.
On this location, power and street lighting utilities are also installed and branch too.

Utility pole with one lechi NCCE.agr.jpg Massachusetts, USA


A multi-utility pole beside a residential road in the USA.

As it primarily holds low voltage power lines and then telephone cables, it remains a power=pole

See also

  • French render that show both power and telecom poles beside roads


Vote didn't begin yet.