Smart Cities & Municipalities
The fit with 5G infrastructure
An important new constituency in the future 5G and telecoms landscape is that of the local authority, or municipality. While the scope of and scale (and funding) of local government varies widely by country, such bodies are becoming an important link between community-level services and the construction/operation of connected technology.
While the concept of the “smart city” is prevalent, it is really an umbrella term covering a huge array of different localised services and capabilities. While certain aspects may be integrated and cooperative (such as traffic management and local transport services), other aspects will be standalone, or delivered by third parties.
Often, metropolitan areas will encompass multiple domains of administration, such as ports and airports, local public-safety agencies and health authorities. In some cases these – and also schools, waste-management and road operation – will be coordinated by the local authority, and some will operate independently, or at a national level.
When it comes to telecoms and networking, there are three distinct roles for local authorities:
- Consumer of connectivity, including fibre and wireless services.
- Provider (or sponsor) of local telecom infrastructure services, either at retail and wholesale levels.
- Enabler (or obstacle) of network deployment, through rights-of-way, planning rules and other instruments.
All three aspects are evolving rapidly, and sometimes demonstrate links between each other, but often not as fully as they should.
There is often a superficial paradox here - local government bodies want access to good connectivity (for their internal needs and local citizens / businesses) – but they also want to monetise their own assets such as street furniture or highway-works permits, by charging fees to service providers and network operators. Sometimes, this last aspect can be counter-productive, as it indirectly reduces deployment of next-generation networks, especially where 4G/5G small cells or “deep” fibre deployments are required.
While circumstances vary widely – especially around how and why such bodies can raise financing for network builds – various public/private collaborations seem to be a promising way forward for many localities.
Disruptive Analysis believes that converged (or “holistic”) municipal strategies combining multiple strands of telecom activity make sense (where regulation and competition rules allow):
- Localised open-access fibre infrastructure, where multiple retail providers can exploit shared underlying wholesale connectivity, for connecting residential or business premises, or mobile backhaul. The network itself may be provided under contract by a commercial network operator, but should be open to all CSPs on an efficient and non-discriminatory basis. There may be scope for revenue-shares in some instance.
- Authorities should give particular consideration to their internal needs – including futureproofing for future “smart” functions such as roadways and lighting / power-management, with deployments of fibre where possible, including to locations where (future) radio infrastructure might be desirable.
- Deep consideration of current and planned radio spectrum availability in that marketplace – including 5G-suitable bands, mmWave, and local licenses (such as CBRS in the US), and what that might realistically enable in terms of services, or require in terms of backhaul/fronthaul infrastructure.
- Awareness of future trends that could either add to the connectivity mix, improve usage models, or which could undermine some of the business cases and assumptions. The next 10 years may see more use of satellite broadband, roadside networks for connected vehicles, broader use of fixed-wireless access, and a desire for localised edge-computing resource. However, none of these is guaranteed, so flexibility and agility will be of paramount importance.
- Consider participation in localised neutral host network (NHN) efforts, either for metropolitan densification, connectivity in rural / outlying regions, or to support industrial and IoT uses on business parks or in less-populated areas where normal mobile coverage is economically marginal. NHNs were discussed in a previous blog post written for ECI.
- Public safety, cyber-security and emergency communications will increasingly overlap with smart city operations. Resilience, expertise and monitoring will be critical.
- Municipalities should look at how outdoor and indoor networks will, increasingly, blur. There will be a strong need to ensure wired and wireless connectivity for smart buildings – and this will feed into a broader set of applications in areas such as energy management, lighting and waste. Coverage of 5G indoors will be complex, and need coordination with the exterior. Local authorities have multiple roles to play here, both with their own public buildings, and how connectivity is managed in privately-owned public space, such as major property developments.
- Many marketplaces have public funds available for various trials and testbeds around 5G, public Wi-Fi, FTTX and other network-related projects. Having a local-government participant in such collaborations can be an extremely effective way of gaining knowledge and exposure to what is coming next.
Taken together, Disruptive Analysis believes that the future municipality or local authority will become much more enmeshed with the telecoms / network world. That will span different technologies and infrastructure elements – and will vary widely depending on exact circumstances. Such organisations should be wary of hype about individual trends – whether that is 5G or LoRa wireless, or particular types of network architecture, but should also be investing in building skills and ecosystems, to the benefit of their citizens and local enterprises.
To learn more about ECI’s 5G Solutions, click here.