For decades, the evolution of communications technology has laid the foundation for economic growth across the United States, benefitting towns and cities large and small. The next generation of wireless network infrastructure will be built using small-cell networks employing 5G wireless technology. The Smart City applications currently leveraging today's wireless networks are already showing significant benefits to communities, and are expected to transform local economies.
Full realization of this economic growth from Smart City solutions will depend on robust deployment of 5G networks, and will require new approaches from municipal leaders and local communities.
Smart City solutions applied to vehicle traffic and electrical grids could produce $160 billion in benefits and savings through reductions in energy usage, traffic congestion and fuel costs. These 5G attributes will enable cities to reduce commute times, improve public safety and generate smart grid efficiencies.
The potential gains from the deployment for such technology are also significant, since U.S. telecom operators are expected to invest $275 billion in infrastructure, which could create up to 3 million jobs and boost GDP by $500 billion.
Realization of the economic growth and cost savings from Smart City solutions will depend on how robustly 5G networks are deployed locally. The network deployment build of 5G will involve 10 to 100 times more antenna locations than 4G or 3G. These cells are small—the size of a shoe box—and are critical for delivering the speed and capacity promised by this next generation of wireless.
To support the increased density of small cells needed for 5G networks, and achieve economic and Smart City benefits, municipal leaders should take steps to encourage telecom operators to invest in deploying next-generation infrastructure in their municipalities.
The shift from traditional large wireless towers to small-cell sites—affixed on locations from lamp posts to utility poles—requires a streamlining of the permitting process governing wireless infrastructure deployment. Access to public rights of way needs to be improved, fee structures changed, and regulatory hurdles reduced to support this new small-cell deployment model.