Network Choices Are Crucial to Smart City Progress

In an article for Smart Cities Dive, Navigant Research says communication networks are fundamental to the future city economy

Ubiquitous connectivity is a foundational element of the smart city — and it’s also one of the most complicated. Cities can choose from a variety of communications networks to connect their many sensors, intelligent devices, and other pieces of city infrastructure to users and operators, and more options are continuing to emerge.

“With the volume of connected nodes expected to grow by billions of devices over the coming decades, the pressure on network capacity will grow rapidly — along with an even greater focus on security and reliability of connections and data movements,” said Ryan Citron, senior research analyst at Navigant Research, in an article for Smart Cities Dive. “It is fundamental that these needs be addressed as cities realize the vision of the connected smart city of the future.”

Today’s network solutions, including RF mesh, cellular, PLC, and Wi-Fi, are evolving to meet new requirements and are being joined by new networking options including low power networks (such as LoRa, Sigfox) and emerging cellular offerings (such as 5G, NarrowBand-IoT, and LTE-Cat-M1). Citron says cities are likely to need multiple providers and multiple types of connectivity for different applications, and that the goal should ultimately be the development of a standardized, secure, and interoperable system of communication networks.

According to the article, the widespread need among cities for connectivity is creating a growing market opportunity. The global market for smart city communication networks is expected to grow from $5.8 billion in 2018 to $13.4 billion in 2027, representing a compound annual growth rate of 9.8%.

"Communication networks are not just enablers for smart city applications, they are also fundamental to the future city economy,” Citron said. “For the efficient deployment and full benefits of future networks such as 5G to be realized, cities may need to overhaul current regulations (e.g., zoning processes), look at how to maximize city assets (including street lights and city-owned fiber), and work with partners to develop business models that can accelerate the deployment of these new technologies.”

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