Building a Smart City with 5G Technology

February 04, 2020

Technology has always been linked to the evolution of cities. As governments consider opportunities for Smart City deployments, 5G networks are creating both challenges and incredible opportunities. Progressive communities are evaluating what the connected city of the future will look like and how 5G and smart infrastructure can help them thrive.

What is 5G?

Offering a major step-up from today’s 4G networks, 5G will deliver speeds more than 100 times faster than today’s LTE networks with reductions in latency to near real-time. The communication industry and futurists expect 5G to impact nearly every sector of the economy by automating factory operations, enabling autonomous vehicles, and even powering remote healthcare.

This technology base is foundational to powering the upcoming Internet of Things (IoT), in which sensors and devices will become smarter and drive innovative solutions. On the ground, telecommunications companies will need almost a million tower locations to meet the 5G demand in just the next seven years. To put that number in perspective, a typical city may soon have nearly twice the number of small cell towers as they have streetlights.

5G Opportunities

Closing the digital divide

One of the challenges of rapid urbanization is making sure all residents have access to the same opportunities and access to services like broadband, education, and healthcare. In municipal areas, 5G services will give people access to education and rapid healthcare no matter their location.

Traffic and Transportation

Low-latency 5G will enable seamless communication to the sensors and devices that power transportation and traffic systems, automatically redirecting traffic, and alerting autonomous vehicle systems about current problems on the road. This will ultimately make the streets safer and less congested for both drivers and pedestrians.

Economic Development

Communities are not only taking steps to manage the deployment of infrastructure but proactively advancing 5G to differentiate their cities and attract technology-dependent businesses. This represents a real opportunity to change perspective and achieve an advantage by relying less on expensive tax incentives to attract those firms.

Becoming a Smart City

Becoming a connected city is the first step toward becoming a Smart City. This requires cooperation between local governments, utilities, businesses, and incumbent communication providers to implement solutions that benefit the community.

As the demand for data grows exponentially, finding solutions to deliver this data requires leveraging existing infrastructure and finding sensible solutions that are cost-effective. City assets including traffic signals, streetlights, and utility systems can be used to support the rollout of 5G and form a network “backbone”.

The convergence of 5G will create new challenges that need to be addressed, such as public right-of-way management and network densification caused by a myriad of small cell towers. Communities must create a multi-faceted strategy to focus on controlling their broadband and wireless future.

Your community can become a Smart City by:

  1. Collaborating with telecommunication providers, stakeholder agencies, and community groups to revisit permitting practices and obtain buy-in.
  2. Updating zoning, design standards, ordinances, cell tower, and other regulations.
  3. Standardizing aesthetic requirements, including pre-approval of antenna, equipment cabinet, and street furniture designs. This is especially crucial as small cell and 5G updates become mandated, as the plethora of small cell antennas will likely cause aesthetic concerns.
  4. A fiber master plan could capitalize on the opportunity to co-locate community fiber assets alongside incoming deployments. Communities need to be fiber dense to help drive AMR/AMI utility meters and public infrastructure while helping providers keep up with new demands for small cell and 5G deployments.

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