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Wireless Technology Convergence and Private Mobile Networks Bring Smart Cities to Life

Key smart city technology advancements, municipal network managers' concerns, and how Alef solutions address them
Smart City Isometric

BY JIM JACOBELLIS, SVP OF SALES

The vision of a smart town or city is no longer a thing of the future; it is happening today around the globe, with traffic lights that dynamically change based on traffic flows, video surveillance cameras that automatically detect accidents, smart utility monitoring that can allocate services in near real-time to manage peak demands, and countless innovations that are driving adoption. In 2022, the smart city market reached $511.6 Billion, and analysts predict it will grow to $1.02 Trillion by 2027, with US and Canada leading smart city adoption. The growth is driven by communities’ concerns about public safety, effective energy usage, environmental sensitivities, infrastructure costs, and the critical need to manage increasingly complex systems and resources cohesively. Growth is also driven by significant technological advancements that deliver reliable and intelligent wireless broadband internet connection for a whole new class of devices and software-defined networking that gives network architects the ability to integrate smart city applications into their existing network infrastructure seamlessly.

While opportunities abound for communities to adopt smart city technologies, there are challenges in adding the complexity of mobile networks to cities’ existing IT infrastructure. Here we discuss key technology advancements, municipal network managers’ concerns, and how Alef solutions address them.

Technology Convergence Brings Smart Cities to Life

After many years of anticipation, there is now critical mass and advancement of key technologies converging to make the promise of smart cities a reality.

Fast and reliable wireless technology arrived with the CBRS spectrum and 4G/LTE enabling the expansion of a cities fiber footprint via wireless. High speeds and large bandwidth of these mobile technologies have kept pace with the proliferation of massive mobile data and connectivity demands. Latency has been dramatically reduced, close enough to wireline speeds, so mission-critical applications are now safely operating via wireless connections. 

These connections can be reliably maintained per base station/access point, supporting high-density applications and heavy traffic areas. And it only gets better with 5G advancements that exceed the demands of current smart city applications, with promised latency of possible one millisecond or less over the air and support for one million devices per square kilometer.  

Private mobile networks (PMNs) assure cities can have total control of secure, dedicated 4G and 5G network capacity separate from public cellular networks. In the US, Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) is a spectrum specifically allocated for PMNs. It allows smart city network architects to securely scale their network coverage and performance to accommodate new and emerging smart technologies.

With the ready availability and relatively low cost of smart city private mobile network solutions, municipal network architects are rapidly innovating with new and vital smart applications, including:

  • IOT Devices such as Traffic Signals: Driven by safety concerns, intelligent traffic solutions include traffic sensors, video surveillance cameras using computer vision to predict and detect issues, passenger information management, smart ticketing, tolls, parking meters, drones, and logistics.
  • Utilities: Representing the largest market share of smart city use cases in 2022, utility applications include smart metering, collecting, processing, and storing data, billing, customer engagement, leak management, loss analysis, system capacity analysis, energy distribution, smart grids, and infrastructure planning.
  • Safety and Security: Live streaming from Body Cameras, expanding wireless coverage to Public Safety Vehicles for secure tablet and vehicular communications.  
  • Digital Signage: Deploy and update outdoor signage in real time from anywhere with no new cabling. Increasing the advertising opportunities for local businesses.

Network Managers’ Key Concerns

When evaluating smart city technologies and adding PMNs to their network plans, municipal network managers express the following concerns:

  • Efficient management and utilization of resources
  • Maintaining existing security and privacy policies
  • Deterministic network performance and reliability 
  • Seamless integration into existing network management systems
  • Minimize on going telecommunications costs
  • SASE compliant 

With network managers’ concerns in mind, Alef’s Private Mobile Network as a Service (MNaaS) solution at the distributed edge delivers robust, secure, and cost-effective private mobile connectivity, without expensive on-premises hardware. Because a PMN is separate from a public mobile network, performance is not impacted by outside traffic and interference, and in fact can be determined by the network manager, giving priority to mission-critical applications. Further, performance including latency is significantly improved by Alef’s distributed edge fabric, which intelligently routes traffic through edge nodes closest to users, eliminating long-distance travel to cloud data centers.

The Alef Private MNaaS integrates with existing network security and privacy policies, keeping data secure within city networks’ firewalls. Network managers have complete control over the PMN, from provisioning new devices to segmenting access for mission-critical applications. With its rich library of APIs, the Alef Private MNaaS can seamlessly integrate with existing municipal Network Access Control systems, reducing time to deployment. And with its flexible pricing models, the cost is aligned with network consumption and without heavy upfront CAPEX or OPEX investment.

To learn more about how you can deploy a Private MNaaS solution in your Smart City, contact us today.


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