Analyst Angle: Smart cities in the age of 5G

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5G, smart cities and IoT were significant themes at the recent CTIA Super Mobility 2016 event and collocated Tower and Small Cell Summit

At CTIA Super Mobility 2016, the entire expo floor was transformed into a fully connected smart city with the entire wireless ecosystem assembled under one roof. On the Thursday keynote stage, Verizon Communications’ John Stratton and New Cities Foundation Founder and Chairman John Rossant explained what needs to happen to make smart cities a reality. Rossant said $50 trillion to $60 trillion will need to be invested globally over the next 15 years on upgraded infrastructure for smart cities, and the industry has to come up with new, innovative models for financing these big infrastructure projects for them to move forward quickly and efficiently.

We devoted an entire track to Smart Cities and Outdoor Mobile Network Densification at the Tower and Small Cell Summit, colocated with CTIA Super Mobility 2016. Cities play a critical role for small cell deployment in mobile network densification. Access to public rights of way and securing sites for small cell deployment is a major “pain point” for mobile operators. Many city governments are moving slowly on issuing permits because they are inundated with applications and requests. Fostering better cooperation with local authorities could help mobile network operators to navigate bureaucratic processes and deploy small cells faster and cheaper. Wireless-friendly smart city officials must consider how to incent mobile operators to deploy small cells using city assets, rooftops and other public sites in addition to commercial property.

Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance, shared the vision of connected cities being pursued by a growing number of U.S. city managers and CIOs. Shenwai explained that smart cities have the ability to drastically transform the way we work, live and play from the way traffic and energy are managed to the enhancement of tourism, citizen engagement and the commuter experience. The connected smart city of tomorrow is viewed as a sprawling metropolis, full of embedded sensors sharing info to mitigate problems and automated transportation and utilities. WBA’s Connected City framework for social and economic development and sustainable operations demonstrates that opportunities smart cities provide seem endless and the benefits of the smart city vision are abundant. But realizing the smart city vision goes far beyond simply deploying networks and monitoring sensors.

Alphonso Jenkins, deputy commissioner for telecom planning in New York City, shared his knowledge and best practices for promoting broadband and wireless connectivity. Jenkins is responsible for planning and permitting small cell networks to optimize wireless coverage, capacity and density, while meeting the emerging “internet of things” networking requirements for New York City. Jenkins believes smart city officials need to adapt existing city assets and establish public and private partnerships to expand connected services. Underpinning all of this is the issue of licensed and unlicensed network technologies being used to knit the smart technology together.

Jenkins described the innovative LinkNYC Wi-Fi kiosk project to replace over 7,500 pay phones across five NYC boroughs with Link Wi-Fi kiosks, and other public Wi-Fi initiatives to extend affordable broadband services to all city residents. NYC is also considering the use of multitenant streetlight poles to help managing the current surge in demand for small cell deployments. One option is to structure an independent franchisee that could end up owning the poles and managing the common small cells using a business model where NYC would share in revenue.

It seems that each year U.S. cities are competing to be recognized for their use of new technology to address the most difficult problems facing urban life. The Smarter Cities Challenge is IBM’s largest philanthropic initiative focused on how to make the city smarter and more effective, focusing on IoT and big data for energy, transportation, waste management and law enforcement to improve efficiency and citizens lives. Seven finalist cities were announced in March, including Austin, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Denver; Kansas City; Pittsburgh; Portland, Oregon; and San Francisco. Columbus was recently selected as the winner of America’s Smart Cities Challenge as it put forward an impressive, holistic vision for how technology can help all of the city’s residents to move more easily and to access opportunity. Columbus proposed to deploy three electric self-driving shuttles to link a new bus rapid transit center to a retail district, connecting more residents to their jobs.

Columbus also plans to use data analytics to improve health care access in a neighborhood that currently has an infant mortality rate four-times that of the national average, enabling improved transportation options for those most in need of prenatal care. The future of transportation is not just about using technology to make systems safer and more efficient – it’s about using these advanced tools to make life better for all people, especially those living in underserved communities. Smart Columbus will deliver an unprecedented multimodal transportation system that will not only benefit the people of central Ohio, but potentially all mid-sized cities. Collaboration between public, private and nonprofit sectors is the key to how Columbus will connect all communities and better serve its residents.

Public-private partnerships are essential to the success of many smart city initiatives in the age of IoT and 5G. Philadelphia plans to utilize its existing assets as a platform to improve public safety, public infrastructure maintenance, energy efficiency, public space management, transportation and quality of life for the residents and businesses. The city will be assessing the technical and economic viability of a new public-private partnership for deploying a “common infrastructure” for wireless network deployment in key parts of the city.

San Jose, California, has established a public-private partnership for clean technology and green energy designed to drive economic growth, create jobs and enhance the quality of life. San Jose and Los Angeles are among the smartest U.S. cities deploying the next generation of small cell technology converged with light posts and street furniture. LED lighting companies such as Phillips are working with telecom equipment manufacturers such as Ericsson to integrate small cells, cameras, sensors and beacon technology with street light poles. In addition, outdoor advertising companies such as JCDecaux are integrating wireless kiosks and digital signage into bus shelters designed to provide ubiquitous wireless coverage while remaining aesthetically discrete.

It is important to focus on how IoT connectivity can enable smarter cities and better services. In San Francisco, which many consider the innovation capital of the world, Sigfox is deploying an IoT network using government buildings to host low-power wide-area network antennas. At the Tower and Small Cell Summit, Ramzi Alharayeri discussed the Sigfox partnership with San Francisco to deploy remote monitoring systems to connect physical objects and allow them to communicate, analyze and share their data through sensors, connectivity and the cloud. The Sigfox IoT network in San Francisco is a test bed and showcase for IoT solutions to create in other energy efficient smart cities across the U.S. In addition, Verizon recently announced plans to deploy new Category M1 IoT solutions to connect low-power smart devices on its standard LTE network in San Francisco by year-end.

Berge Ayvazian, senior consultant with Wireless 20/20, will be speaking on IoT Connectivity at 5G North America in Dallas on Nov. 16, and is chairing the Next Generation Connectivity – Platforms Pitch-Off at the Smart Cities Summit in Boston on Dec. 7. In this session each of the key technologies for connected smart cities will be showcased and compared, including Wi-Fi, LPWAN, Cat-M1 LTE, 5G millimeter wave and citywide fiber optic networks. The focus of this session will be on future-proofing smart city networks by merging “legacy” protocols with the new generation of inexpensive, connected sensors using modern protocols and technology.

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About Author

Berge Ayvazian

Analyst Angle Contributor to RCR Wireless News
Senior Analyst, Wireless 20/20
Berge Ayvazian, now a principal consultant, joined Wireless 20/20 as a Senior Analyst in 2009, following more than 20 years as a senior telecom industry analyst and strategy consultant with Yankee Group, where he served as CEO and co-chairman of the 4G World and Mobile Internet World conference programs.Ayvazian is now conducting 4G Network and Mobile Internet research on the convergence of broadband and mobility and the evolving business strategies of mobile service providers and their technology vendors. He leads an integrated 4G/LTE practice to help operators and their vendors to develop their 4G technology roadmaps and build a complete mobile Internet business case leveraging the Wireless 20/20 WiROI™ 4G Business Case Analysis Tools. He has used these tools to develop operator 4G network business cases, and address the most challenging modeling problems associated with Wi-Fi Offload, Small Cell deployments and 4G networks to serve venues such as stadiums, airports and train stations.