AT&T and Verizon are targeting the heart of Silicon Valley with 5G plans. Both telecom giants this morning announced initiatives with San Jose, California, to boost the city’s IT infrastructure in support of eventual 5G network launches.
AT&T said its work with the city is a public-private partnership that will focus on deploying small cells to bolster voice and data capacity. Those small cells will be in support of AT&T’s IoT technology and eventually its plans to launch mobile 5G services beginning in the first half of next year.
Initial work will include a trial of AT&T Smart Cities efforts around smart lighting, public WiFi, and infrastructure monitoring. AT&T also tied the work to its ongoing FirstNet public safety network.
The carrier has said it plans to launch mobile 5G services in a dozen markets by year-end. Those initial markets include San Jose neighbor San Francisco.
That initial launch will use the 3GPP non-standalone (NA) 5G New Radio (NR) standard that was approved late last year. The 3GPP earlier this week approved the 5G standalone (5G SA) specification that will allow deployment of 5G without being dependent upon an underlying 4G LTE network.
Verizon’s work with the city involves the deployment of fiber and also small cells in support of smart city programs focused on traffic management. Verizon is also throwing funds at San Jose’s Digital Inclusion Fund that is tasked with expanding internet access.
Similar to AT&T, the carrier also said the investments will lay the groundwork for an eventual 5G service launch. Verizon plans to launch a fixed 5G service in up to five markets by year-end.
Both agreements are set for a vote later this month by the San Jose City Council.
The FCC earlier this year moved to make it easier for telecom operators to deploy small cells. Those deployments are key to support the coverage characteristics of millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum that will provide the capacity requirements for 5G.
Specifically, the FCC ruled that small cell site deployments are exempt from the historical and environmental assessment reviews that are currently required before a wireless operator deploys a new tower site. This decision will not impact the reviews that towns and cities currently make about cell site deployments, but the agency has said it might revisit this in the future.
According to a recent Accenture report, the change to the FCC rules could lower deployment costs by $1.6 billion over nine years. The study found that National Historical Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act (NHPA/NEPA) reviews for small cells cost the wireless industry $36 million in 2017, and those reviews were projected to cost operators about $2.43 billion from 2018 to 2026.
Interestingly, Shireen Santosham, chief innovation officer for San Jose, told Government Technology that she sees the FCC move as a way to take away local control of the infrastructure deployment. Santosham previously worked as a director for the GSMA’s Mobile for Development group.