Wireless infrastructure in cities

Wireless connectivity is a problem currently facing cities across the country. This is not something that is going to happen in ten years, but rather a revolution that is happening right now. No one could have predicted that wireless technology would explode like it has.

Do you consider wireless coverage as part of your city infrastructure?

We need to start thinking about wireless technology as infrastructure, in the same way that we think about water and sewage systems. Four in five Americans say that mobile connectivity is a necessary part of their daily lives. Let’s be clear: mobile Internet access is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Time and time again, study after study on this topic, multiple sources say the same thing: Internet connectivity NOW is an essential element of modern life. Connectivity is a critical part of private business, family life, and effective governance. We should do everything possible in our cities to encourage the deployment of wireless infrastructure.

The urgent need for a robust wireless infrastructure will only increase. It is difficult to keep up with the demand for additional wireless infrastructure to serve businesses and residents of our communities, but the demand will continue to increase. When you think of wireless technology, do you only think of cell phones? It really is much more than that. Includes water meters, gas meters, each electric meter. Almost every new car delivered today has a cellular-enabled modem on board. Traffic lights, streetlights, iPhones, even iWatches.

In less than 12 months, major carriers will begin rolling out 5G in select US cities, including California. Most of us have heard of 5G. While the exact specifications have not yet been released, the general idea is to provide mobile data at the same speed as current residential broadband connections. This means wireless Internet on our mobile devices at almost the same speed as we have at home. This will change EVERYTHING. This is the most important trend in modern infrastructure since the massive rollout of broadband Internet. Imagine a world where having an ultra-fast Internet connection no longer requires a wired connection. The company and the services that this infrastructure will support will revolutionize the way we collect data, conduct business, and conduct our daily lives.

Many of us here remember the introduction of the Internet into people’s homes. Initially, the Internet was seen as a novelty. Most companies did not take it very seriously. Even when we got to the point where most companies had a website, they were quite static and there was still much debate about the usefulness of the Internet for the average person. Today, I think there is no doubt that it is a fundamental component of modern life. Now the vast majority of businesses don’t just have a website, they have mobile versions of their websites with integrated e-commerce. Billions are sold over the Internet. The apps are optimized to run on mobile devices out of the box. In January 2018, an incredible 95 percent of active Facebook users accessed their account through mobile devices at least once. There are dozens of similar pressures on mobile data that drive the need for an expanded wireless infrastructure.

Mobile video is a large component of this demand. Video streaming already accounts for more than 75% of total data consumption. People near or below the poverty line are much more likely than middle- and upper-income Americans to have only one source of Internet access.

That source is almost always a mobile phone. For them, the lack of quality data coverage is not only an inconvenience, it can be the barrier between them and the critical services of health, banking, job search and government. We really need to spend more time thinking about how wireless infrastructure plays a key role in serving low-income residents living in our cities.

80% of calls to 9-1-1 are made from mobile phones. Can you imagine if making that emergency call was as difficult as sending a picture from a crowded stadium? Investing in wireless infrastructure is more than just an income opportunity. Cities should encourage their proliferation. Strong wireless infrastructure supports public safety and can save lives.

Cities can leverage private sector investment to build the best wireless infrastructure at no cost to taxpayers. This is where leadership is needed. Cities must adapt to the world of connectivity to meet community needs.

After almost a decade of work in this field, we still cannot tell you what the correct and incorrect answers are because each city has a unique profile and needs. However, what I can tell you is that cities should explore every opportunity to provide their constituents with the infrastructure they need to improve the economy, public safety, and our quality of life.


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