Smart communities will enrich the lives of residents and
make local governments more efficient in responding to their citizens’ needs.
From security to convenience to revenue generation, smart city applications
will change the way cities operate and the way we live and work. But it all
starts with connectivity – smart city residents, vehicles, systems and
applications must be connected, and in most cases that involves fiber
infrastructure. There are three key trends that will impact smart cities in
2019. Let’s take a look
Companies have traditionally built out specific, siloed
applications like surveillance cameras, smart lighting or traffic sensors, but
for 2019 they will start to take the longer view and think about building a
basic infrastructure to support all smart city applications. It only makes
sense; otherwise, the city is digging up the same streets every year or so to
add infrastructure for each new application. For example, one city installed
basic security cameras on light poles but did so without installing fiber
connectivity that would enable adding small cells to those poles or
implementing facial recognition applications for the cameras. Now, the city must
upgrade its light pole connectivity network – a painful and costly process.
To avoid having to upgrade networks in the future, city
planners are now educating themselves about future possibilities, consulting
with IoT vendors and network connectivity vendors, and working to develop a
plan for the long term. For example, Stockholm as well as Chattanooga,
Tennessee and Lincoln, Nebraska have built high-speed fiber networks around
their cities with enough bandwidth to support new IoT devices and applications
well into the future.
Overall, data connectivity is becoming the Fourth Utility in
cities – it’s a must-have to do business, and cities are recognizing this.
Connectivity in homes and businesses is a competitive advantage for cities, and
they are rushing to implement it.
CLICK TO TWEET: CommScope's Morne Erasmus provides three key trends that will impact smart cities in 2019.
Like water, gas and electricity, cities don’t always deliver
the service, but they enable construction of the basic infrastructure that
delivers the service. We’re starting to see more projects that combine government
funding with public/private partnerships. In Europe and elsewhere around the
world, many national governments are mandating and providing funding for large
fiber build-outs. In North America, service providers, developers and local
utilities are deploying parts of the civic connectivity infrastructure while
the city facilitates permitting and planning for construction.
Electric utilities are in a unique position to deploy fiber
infrastructure because they already own rights-of-way and have existing
overhead poles or underground conduits that can accommodate new fiber, so they
can deploy fiber more quickly and at a lower cost. In some cases, cities in
North America are funding or partnering with local power companies to build out
the “Middle Mile” of the fiber network (Figure 1) – the part from central
offices or other distribution hubs to neighborhoods or business parks. Middle-Mile
networks are the most common municipal model due to less risk, the decreased
cost of deployment and the ability to lease excess conduit/fiber to private
providers. Cities and municipal organizations building Middle-Mile networks
include Centennial, Colorado and Howard County, Maryland to name just a few.
In many other cases, cities are also building the “Last Mile”
that connects customers, often in partnership with local municipal electric
companies. Ammon, Idaho; Hudson Oaks, Texas; and Fairlawn, Ohio; and are
deploying last mile connectivity on their own, while Chattanooga, Tennessee;
Lafayette, Louisiana; and Longmont, Colorado are partnering with local electric
utilities to reach end customers. We see similar trends internationally in
Stockholm (Stokab), Netherlands (Reggefiber, Citynet Amsterdam) and Singapore (OpenNet)
to just name a few. Carriers are also
building their own Last-Mile networks, and 5G access will play an increasing role
in delivering this connectivity, either through the densification of mobile
networks or deployment of new fixed access solutions. Verizon has already
launched 5G wireless access trials in several cities in 2018.
In the past, service providers built separate wireless and
wireline networks. Wireless infrastructure is becoming more centralized, so it
makes more sense to converge all the wireless backhaul traffic onto the same
fiber used by wireline services. The process of fiber network
convergence is primarily driven by the development of enabling technologies,
user demand and service providers’ capabilities. Large incumbent service
providers have both wireline and wireless operations, so converging onto a single network and
maximizing asset utilization makes excellent business sense and will be a push
for 2019. Real-life examples have occurred where a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH)
network was built and several months later, the same construction crew dug up the same street to lay fiber for a cell site, which is
wasteful and disruptive. Network convergence would mean one build-out that
could be used for multiple service delivery platforms including FTTH (Figure 2).
That said, most cities will incorporate different providers’
networks in their overall infrastructure. How should they tie all these
networks together? The first step is to put all this fiber from different
vendors in the same trench and in the same conduit. Some networks need to be
private (public safety, for example), but cities can at least ensure that all
networks use the same conduit and perhaps even the same fiber bundle. After
all, when the U.S. Interstate Highway system was built, there weren’t separate
roads for trucks, cars and motorcycles –a shared infrastructure was built. It
makes sense to do the same with fiber networks.
Applications drive the need for more bandwidth: parking,
smart meters, public safety (surveillance cameras), traffic management, 5G
small cell densification, waste management, and coordination of departments for
emergency services are just a few examples. It’s easy to see that a single
converged network would be the most cost-effective way to support these
applications. When a city builds out a fiber network to its light poles, for
example, those poles can support smart lighting, surveillance cameras, and
small cells for 5G network densification.
In fact, the advent of 5G networks over the next couple of
years is a major driver for fiber deployments.
5G will not only bring faster speeds, but also much denser small cell
deployments due to distance limitations with millimeter wave technology and
ultra-low latency applications at the edge. By providing the pole infrastructure and
facilitating permitting, a city can speed the build-out of fiber-to-the-pole
networks by utility companies or service providers.
By meeting these expectations, 5G will foster new
applications. Large companies like Netflix and Uber were built because fiber
and 4G mobile wireless infrastructure were there to support their services. With
its increases in bandwidth and coverage ubiquity, 5G will drive similar
innovations, but it will rely on fiber for transport to and from the rest of
the city’s network.
Cities are implementing smart city applications because they
improve efficiency, reduce costs, generate new sources of revenue, and most
importantly, improve the lives of their citizens. By planning ahead, using
creative funding approaches, and converging networks around citywide fiber
rollouts, cities will move forward on the path to becoming smarter in 2019.