Being connected has become one of our greatest dependencies over the past year as we anticipate and start to rebuild our lives in a post-COVID world.

As a result, 5G has come to be viewed by more and more private and public enterprises as the key enabler for recovery and growth across all industries, as well as a catalyst for innovation. The technology platforms behind the major advances in innovation– augmented and virtual reality, data and analytics, and private networks – all heavily rely on 5G for maximum effectiveness. It is therefore the power of 5G that will be the game changer in contributing to the long-term aspects of our economic recovery from the global pandemic.

5G technology makes cities more liveable and attractive

5G connectivity layered with advanced technologies such as IoT, data analytics, and AI is going to be one of the greatest enablers for public and private enterprise we’ve seen in decades, possibly ever, and will also contribute significantly to smart city evolution. It presents an unmissable opportunity for organisations to gain efficiencies, improve security, provide better safeguards for health and safety, and deliver a much better customer experience.

Additionally, this associated innovation will enable significant development in our cities of the future that will, in turn, allow us to drive a green agenda, safer society, and education for all. The ability to serve more connected devices in highly dense urban environments is one of the greatest benefits of shared 5G infrastructure and technology.

With 5G running at its best on superior infrastructure and powering these technology platforms at scale, the possibilities for accelerated economic development could very well be infinite. This is because 5G’s revolutionary capability ultimately lies in its ability to make systems operate more effectively, allocate resources more efficiently, and minimise waste more than any other technology.

Overall, cities are gradually generating more collective intelligence as different systems are implemented and start ‘talking’ to each other. These systems implemented at a community level are the building blocks towards an urban environment reaching ‘smart city status’. The idea of smart communities building up to a smart city is a narrative that BAI is actively affirming. The concept of a ‘smart city’ is certainly realisable in this way and BAI can support both public and private enterprises to establish their smart communities.

Growing smart communities fast tracks smart city development

Ultimately, city planners and the private sector participants want to deliver a better and more human-friendly city for residents and visitors. If you think about 5G in conjunction with connected transit and a ‘station of the future’ context, together with a small cell offering above ground, you start to see that it’s bringing together a number of different technology and service strands that allow us to deliver a great experience and improved safety not just for our customers, but for their customers.

An example of this in the transit industry is a crowd management application in the subway that can help operators adjust carriage supply in real time in response to a change in passenger demand.  It can also send alerts to taxis and ridesharing apps above ground signalling spikes in demand for these services before they occur in specific parts of the city, which uses – and connects – all these technologies.

Maximising the value of 5G means engaging a neutral host

To maximise the opportunities – and minimise the required investment and resourcing – of shifting to 5G, we’re seeing an important trend that BAI is helping to facilitate, which is the move towards neutral host infrastructure. MNOs are moving towards outsourcing infrastructure operations to neutral host service providers because this presents a key benefit in enabling MNOs to increase focus on delivering a superior connectivity experience for their customers with the advent of 5G.

At the same time, MNOs reduce operational and financial pressure by partnering with companies that specialise in designing, installing, operating, and maintaining infrastructure to enable 5G on their behalf. These companies are therefore the best allies for MNOs to deliver the latest cellular technology to their customers.

Overall, this makes it significantly more efficient and cost effective to scale a 5G offering while also ensuring the infrastructure is future-ready for when the next generation technology is developed.  Furthermore, to deploy 5G at scale takes specific engineering expertise and skill to design, install, operate, and maintain the infrastructure.

From an operational perspective, the neutral host solution saves MNOs being responsible for securing access to real estate needed for small cell devices, antennas, and fibre, dealing with local authorities, and applying for permits and approvals – in addition to not worrying about implementing, operating, and maintaining the network itself.

For venues where security and understanding how data is coming in and out is extremely important, 5G-enabled private networks are a great fit. Private networks are ideal for operators of venues, campuses, and critical infrastructure that need to regulate all aspects of their wireless network, such as data flow and security. Many of these operators are attaching a data analytics function capable of leveraging 5G infrastructure to provide them with the ability to identify valuable customer and operational insights.

Ubiquitous coverage across a campus becomes more important for remote enterprises or institutions out of reach of a mobile network. This is true for several verticals, such as transit authorities, where coverage is important for rolling stock on a train line or a bus service. Then, if you think about factories, and large utilities, or ports, ubiquitous secure coverage across the campus is very important. For example, airports and seaports certainly benefit from the connectivity advantages of private networks, such as tracking movement of people, luggage, and goods as well as the added benefit of being able to provide coverage for citizens as they move about the airport, especially when facing travel delays, and the various aspects of citizen and enterprise security.

The backbone of flourishing smart cities

From these examples alone, it is abundantly clear that neutral host infrastructure providers, especially those partnering with MNOs, have a big role to play in supporting the public and private enterprises establishing smart communities, thus contributing to smart city development in a meaningful and achievable way.

The capability of the advanced technology and innovation powered by 5G is indeed sowing the seeds for flourishing smart cities. 5G is a success lever for MNOs and infrastructure companies, as well as government and smaller enterprises to be able to build the organisation of the future. In helping organisations with their communications infrastructure, networks, automation, and analytics, BAI must provide the necessary ubiquitous coverage on which these services depend.

This is the path to smart city evolution.