WASHINGTON, D.C. — City leaders see 5G deployments as a big opportunity to attract new businesses and outfit their residents with state-of-the-art services — everything from in-home monitoring for the elderly to more efficient trash disposal. But why are certain cities on the radar of wireless operators and others are not?
Verizon has launched its pre-standard 5G service in four markets including Indianapolis, Houston, Los Angeles and Sacramento, California. Early in the company’s 5G planning process, then-CEO Lowell McAdam said that he was meeting with city mayors to discuss ways in which cities could work with the service provider to accelerate its 5G deployment. Specifically, he said that cities that would provide Verizon with access to conduits would be at the top of the list because that would help the carrier with its intelligent edge deployment.
But that openness to working with wireless operators isn’t just meant for large cities. At the DC5G 2018 event here, Eugene Grant, mayor of Seat Pleasant, Maryland, said that even though his city has a population of less than 10,000 residents he is trying to position it as being a great place for tech companies to test their innovations. “80 percent of municipalities have a population of under 10,000 and we are overlooked,” Grant said. “But we are small enough to be a testbed for innovation.”
As an example, Grant said that his city is working with its utility company to let wireless operators deploy small cells more easily. “We are streamlining the process to allow that to happen,” he said.
Earlier this year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also ruled in favor of wireless operators by giving local city officials time limits on making decisions regarding small cell deployments and also prohibiting them from charging excessive fees.
Beyond opening conduits for small cells, cities can also accelerate the deployment of 5G by just taking an inventory of their assets. According to Steve Baker, director of innovation and smart poles at American Tower, cities should catalog their assets. Those assets include wireless towers, small cells, and fiber conduits.
Baker added that if cities are unhappy with their wireless coverage they should consider using the CBRS spectrum to become a provider. The CBRS spectrum is in the 3.5 GHz band that is currently being used by military and satellite incumbents when needed but is available for commercial use at all other times.
In October, the FCC adopted changes to the rules governing the licensed portion of the 3.5 GHz spectrum by increasing the license areas from census tracts to counties and extending the license terms to 10 years. These changes are considered more favorable to 5G deployments.
Panelists at the DC5g 2018 conference discuss what 5G will mean for municipalities.