It is a very exciting time for the utility industry. Renewable energy from solar, wind, and water sources are shaping the future. Electric vehicles are all over the road. Smart meters are allowing utility customers to better manage their energy consumption. Net metering and interconnection projects are driving more diverse energy portfolios, promoting economic development and reducing emissions. Application of these technologies is leading to the rise of smart cities.
All of these projects and advancements are electrifying. The increasing importance of distributed generation (DG), and renewable energy means the utility industry’s ability to react swiftly to shifting market dynamics will become crucial to its long-term success.
Network Densification is the most powerful force that will shape the future of the telecom industry. This is due to the growing demand for data on mobile devices. It is estimated that over 20 billion devices will be online by the year 2020. In response to this growth, network operators have installed tens of thousands of small cells to bring their network hubs closer to the end-user.
5G is coming and the wireless industry is executing large-scale telecom deployments. But what role can utilities and municipalities play in this telecom revolution? Municipal leaders can bolster the success of their smart city programs by taking steps to encourage telecommunications companies to invest in deploying next-generation infrastructure in their cities.
Fulfilling the promise of smart cities
The race to 5G is here and not a moment too soon. The Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities movements both rely on expensive wireless networks to be effective. Utility companies can gain a lot by embracing IoT, and cities will benefit if utilities are part of their networks. Wireless communications are going to need to be a mainstay in utility infrastructure. The growing number of smart meters and distributed energy resources (DERs) like solar arrays and wind turbines need an expansive network to be successful. 5G is likely to be a foundation for the success of these critical infrastructure projects.
In the Black and Veatch report on smart cities and utilities they predicted, “For the utility sector, 5G technology will help unleash the next wave of smart grid features and efficiency through low-cost connections, improved monitoring capabilities and better forecasting of energy needs.”
Network Densification has caused a shift; small cell sites are in high demand. Small cells are often mounted to city and utility infrastructure such as transmission and distribution or city light poles. These projects will require a more streamlined permitting processes in order to meet demand. Municipal leaders should improve process efficiency and reduce regulatory hurdles to support new deployment efforts required for this race to 5G. The reality is that smart cities cannot fully emerge without expansive network capacity and coverage. With the right approach and advocacy, 5G can make smart cities a reality.
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