An Outline of Smart City Broadband


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What is smart city broadband? It’s just broadband, let’s not make it complicated. If you ask what broadband is, I have to ask you if you live under a rock, seriously. Broadband is everywhere. We expect so much from our connections. If it is a Cable modem, then we expect to have connections in our homes and offices all the time. We rely on Wi-Fi to connect inside the office, and we expect it to be secure.

If we have a smartphone, we want the coverage to go beyond the office to everywhere, literally everywhere we go. We need to have it all the time, even when we hate getting interrupted, we are happy it works.

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This is broadband. In our offices, we have fiber connections that give us solid and fast broadband. The problem for smaller businesses is that they may not have the money or the need for fiber, so they use a cable modem or another ISP that has a more affordable connection.

Then we go down to the smaller businesses who want to be nimble. So, they rely on their smartphone and Wi-Fi. They may or may not have an office, or their office may be their vehicle, or they go from door to door. Yes, people still do that. They teach yoga in the park, or they groom dogs at a home or office for people.

These are all examples of broadband being used for business. So yes, broadband matters to the smart city. It goes beyond the office, that is the point. We need a combination of fiber and cable and wireless. They all play into the bigger picture. Could you imagine living in a city where you don’t have broadband? That’s crazy in today’s world, right?

Now, how do we use that broadband? Who uses that broadband? What will the city get from this mass roll out? What form will it be?

How do we use and roll out broadband?

Let’s break it down, first the obvious question, how do we use the broadband. While the first use case seems obvious, work, play, and all that goes with that. Businesses are going to rely on the fiber and cable modems for the office and servers. They are going to need this to do business. So, remember that the city must facilitate the fiber and cable rollouts. This means that the cities will need to be dug up at some point. This is going to make or break the city. Put policies in place to make the backbone a priority.

This doesn’t mean dig up the street all the time. This means that you need to make sure that the “dig once” policy makes it easy for all the fiber to laid at one time can get out there. Put a system in place where competitors can all go into one dig. Maybe even put in extra conduit to connect to other cross-connects. If you can create a system that avoids the dig by adding a way for the conduits to add fiber, then you have a system in place to allow for quick and easy growth. Plan ahead. Go beyond the dig once policy. If you want to see an older example of this, look at what NYC did here, https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/home/downloads/pdf/press-releases/2014/infrastructure_report.pdf in their report about underground infrastructure. While this report goes beyond fiber, it explains how you can use underground as a valuable resource for allowing for future expansion.

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While the expansion of broadband will be the expansion of business, you need to have a plan in place to grow beyond what you have now. Infrastructure needs to expand and broadband pipes, like fiber and cable, are a critical part of your infrastructure.

Broadband will be used for video, data analytics, voice communication, wireless connection expansion, and more. However, all you need to look at is that broadband will be used for business and growth and residential. The growth of business and residential means growth for the city! Growth is what broadband will bring to your city! That is how it will be used.

Who uses that broadband?

This is obvious, or is it? Of course, businesses will use it. Small business will need it to compete. Large business will need it. They will use it just to do business.

What about the residents? Of course! They will need it. They use it to maintain a respectable way of life here in North America. They use broadband for more than just email and internet access in the traditional way. They rely on the access to watch TV, entertainment, gaming, and for anything fun!

However, residents also rely on the internet for additional income. This is where the small businesses boom. This is where you get new business from literally nowhere! Yes, because the entrepreneurial spirit is so strong around the world! I can be anywhere and write a book, be a virtual assistant, work remotely! How exciting is this time we live in? I think it’s great and it’s going to change our world, as it has already!

Hey, those are the obvious cases. What about to grow the wireless infrastructure? You need to provide the wireless an infrastructure of fiber. They need to build the wireless system out. So, for mobility, you need a fixed backhaul. Get it? Now you’re enabling wireless to grow! This is a hidden example of how fiber growth will spark other industries.

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What about security? This is a need in any city and broadband will carry video for this purpose. We need to expand the reach across the city for security and analytics. This is a need in the modern city.

Things will be on the internet. Devices will talk to each other without human intervention. Then we have IOT which we look at as wireless, but it still needs a fiber connection at some point to take it back to the NOC to be monitored. Fiber enables this! It helps us reach out and connect all these other systems.

What will the city get from this mass roll out?

The city will get the economy rolling. They will have the business grow. Growth will be more than just the business at the office but the services they can offer. The people they can employ, and the data they could share and analyze.

They will enable the residents to have all the services they want not only at home, but the mobility will be a great experience. The residents will also be able to work anywhere at any time. They can make a difference anywhere with a laptop and smartphone.

Security will be enhanced to the point where if something is about to happen, it may be preventable. That is why we have the high alerts, so we know where and how to look for something. The police and fire departments will have what they need to see what is going on before they get there. Maybe we can avoid the serious mistakes.

Wireless coverage is going to enable freedom on the city so that people can work anywhere, on the move, and attend more city events.

Using IOT will allow new services to be rolled out. We can become more and more efficient than we ever were before.

What is the transport method?

Currently, it’s going to be fiber. We still rely on fiber for almost everything. Then from there wireless. That’s what I see, keeping it simple is that we rely on the fiber backbone. Eventually we will have more wireless which will be very reliable, but for now, we still need fiber all over the city to enable the wireless to happen. We just need to use wireless to expand the fiber connections.

It’s explosive growth. We have already seen it, and now we all expect it to be 100 times past what we have now. We will connect everything we can possibly connect. We can be connected 99% of the time unless we don’t want to be connected.

How will we get it out there? Fiber is where it all starts. That’s right, me, a wireless guy, just told you that fiber is where it all starts. We need to use fiber to build the backbone. While the cable companies have done a good job using cable to get to the homes and small businesses they still use fiber for distribution. We all rely on fiber.

After fiber, we currently rely on cable to get to the smaller businesses. They still have an extensive reach that is very reliable.

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Wireless, specifically LTE, and eventually 5G will shape the future of last mile connectivity. It will become more of a connector due to the ease of connectivity and the accessibility. We will all be looking for that magic pill called Fixed Wireless. We expect Verizon and AT&T to deliver this in 2019, but hopefully sooner.

Who will roll out what?

This is all over the map. We have so many options, so let’s look at who is providing the technology, that may be easier to breakdown.

  • Wireless carriers like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint – they are providing the obvious, LTE and moving into 5G. However, they plan to take it a step further with 5G; this is where they will go beyond the spectrum they have now and move into cmwave and mmwave. These are higher spectrum solutions that will compete with the cable model and ISP for home and business coverage. It will have enough spectrum to push over 100Mbps to a unit somewhere. While the carriers are working on this bandwidth for mobile, the fixed wireless business case will become quite real. This will be considered 5G fixed wireless. It is available today, but not on a mass roll out. Don’t stop The carriers will have great IOT expectations as well. AT&T and Verizon intend to roll out IOT services that will enable devices to communicate with their IOT networks using forms of LTE. While this may be narrowband, I am sure they will have broadband solutions as well depending on the use case.
  • Cable companies like Comcast and Cablevision are already giving you broadband to your homes and small businesses. They are also giving resident Wi-Fi in many urban areas. This is really helping residents see how they can utilize Wi-Fi at remote locations. However, with the rollout of new spectrum solutions, like 600MHz, CBRS, and LTE-U, this will start to advance quickly. Wi-Fi is a great technology that has been around for a long time, but now LTE will roll out everywhere. It will become part of 5G and open new doors for the cable companies to distribute broadband everywhere. They already have a solid infrastructure; now they need to expand to new delivery methods, which they will do. It will be awesome.
  • ISPs and WISPs like CenturyLink will continue to serve, but they need to compete on a new level. I believe they will look at the wireless model as a solution to the home and business. They will provide services to the rural areas; someone will need to. They may be in the smart city, but they will have so much competition that it may not be viable for them unless they partner with someone or hit the 3rd tier cities. They have the know-how, but so they have the budget to build and compete.
  • Fiber providers will be big, like Crown Castle and Zayo, that supply the backhaul to wireless carriers. They will be a key building block who will enable the wireless companies to grow. These companies are working to supply the backhaul for everyone to have wireless connectivity. We will need them to grow. Just because the public doesn’t know much about them is not a reason for us to ignore them. They are players. They are enablers.
  • Car companies will enable broadband because the self-driving car will take over. While the self-driving car will need to be always connected, this may or may not be broadband, but inside the vehicle, people will want broadband. They will want to have Wi-Fi or LTE-U inside the vehicle while they wait to get to their destination. Yes, car companies already know this, and they are coming up with ways to make this happen. When I say car companies, I don’t just mean Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Nissan, and all the others. I mean Uber and Lyft because they are the ones that are pushing the limits. They are the ones who are really helping to get the self-driving car out there. Companies like Tesla are game changers because they have a car that is connected and feeding back data real-time. Tesla uses that data to improve their vehicle, the driving experience, and improve efficiencies. Amazing new companies that I consider car companies. It will be life changing!

What technologies are available?

Here is where we can look at all the technologies that are out there. I am going to cover the wireless. I think we beat the fiber and cable horses to death! We get it, OK, fiber is needed everywhere.

Wireless we have the most obvious, Wi-Fi. It’s cheap and easy to deploy. However, it’s already rolled out and many looks at it as a free service for the most part. Seriously, I go to Starbucks and expect to get the W-Fi for free.

We will have LTE-U coming out which is in the Wi-Fi spectrum, free spectrum, that will allow LTE to be everywhere and should work with your smartphone much better. It’s new which means it will take time to roll out. I do expect to see it in 2018, and I know that the larger carriers are very excited to see it. They will use it heavily.

We have the licensed bands. Like 1900MHZ, 2.5GHz, and other bands. These all use LTE. It could be FDD or TDD, which I explain in my other books about 5G and LTE Deployment. Here you just need to know that the carriers own it. They may lease some of it, but they don’t give it away, and they won’t share those bands. They paid a lot of money for them. Even the cmwave and the mmwave that they purchased. So, they own this, and they will deploy this, and the device makers will need to add it to their devices so that we can use it.

Finally, we have the CBRS here in the states. This is a 3.5GHz band that we want to use. This should be open to the carriers but also to the enterprise, small business, and even to you and me if we want to purchase the equipment and lightly license it. Yes, the lightly license model is happening here in the USA. I can’t wait because it should open new opportunities. We can use CBRS spectrum inside buildings for private and secure networks. It will be a great way to build out the micro-networks that we all dreamt doing. Something that no one could sniff it out and try to hack it. Now it’s licensed which will make it harder for someone to hack into it without being in the licensed band. It just doesn’t happen much on the carrier’s network because it’s hard to do. This will let the Enterprise and small business owner build a network on a licensed band then allow a carrier to roam onto it.

Be smart, be safe, and pay attention!

See Ya!

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