Planning for 5G wireless densification for the smart city
The advent of 5G wireless networks offers urban planners and dwellers a generational jump in bandwidth, connectivity and opportunities. First and most obvious will be the gigabit throughput from 5G cell phones and stationary connections. Organizations and citizens will have much faster access to online educational, financial and entertainment services. This will attract businesses and knowledge workers to those cities that have better 5G coverage.
The 5G infrastructure will also be a platform for new industries such as autonomously driven vehicles, ultra-high-definition video and virtual reality. That’s why many cities are looking for the most efficient path for deployment of 5G infrastructure.
As this infrastructure becomes widespread, it will increasingly support the operations of municipalities. Forward-looking city planners are preparing for wireless services that can help improve traffic movement and congestion, monitor air pollution, improve safety and medical services and optimize use of city resources. These are the elements of the “smart city.”
5G densification challenges urban planning
Deploying 5G wireless service will be much more challenging than it was for prior generations. While a 4G macro cell site can maintain a wireless connection over a distance of a mile or more, the higher frequency “millimeter wave” signals used in 5G networks can maintain reliable connections for about one-tenth of a mile. To provide continuous coverage, 5G small cell sites must be lower to the ground and significantly closer to one another than previous wireless generations. In fact, the 5G wireless infrastructure will comprise between six to 12 times more cell sites than earlier generations.
Moreover, the service providers will need to locate more small cells where there is the most need for densification—in the busiest streets, plazas and neighborhoods. That means they will likely be mounted on or within current street furniture, impacting urban aesthetics and utility operations. At the same time, other municipal smart city programs—such as EV chargers, pollution sensors and public safety devices—are targeting the same areas for their street-level infrastructure. This is a fast-growing problem for urban planners, and for the utilities that maintain much of the street-level poles and structures.\
Emerging solutions conceal 5G radios and antennas
Even though they are much smaller than the familiar 4G macro cell sites, 5G small cell sites include antennas, electronics, cabling and enclosures that may appear to clutter up the airspace immediately overhead. In some places, citizens are concerned about finding 5G radios in their neighborhoods. Options for concealment of this equipment will play an important role in deployment.
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