It is increasingly recognized that street lights are valuable city assets that can enable various smart city services and Internet of Things (IoT) strategies. Navigant Research expects the installed base of smart street lights to reach nearly 73 million globally by 2026. One of the many elements connected to realizing the value of smart street lights is supporting the deployment of cellular networks and, in particular, future 5G networks.
What About 5G?
With the continued expansion of IoT, the number of mobile users and connected devices will increase. As subsequent data consumption increases, there will be increasing pressure on network capacity. This has the potential to cause latency problems and possibly dropped services with a detrimental effect on many IoT applications. The next generation of wireless networks will therefore need to handle more traffic at high speeds than today’s LTE networks. 5G is hailed as the solution to these and other challenges, and it promises to bring speeds 20 times faster than the current 4G networks and deliver data with less than a millisecond of delay. Telecommunications companies are aiming to commercialize 5G networks by 2020.
However, the downside of 5G networks is that cellular signals do not travel far and are easily blocked by objects. Therefore, in order to prevent signals from being dropped, 5G networks require many more base stations to relay the signals than the current 4G networks. Fortunately, small cell base stations can solve that problem. These small low power nodes can be easily attached to existing infrastructure such as street light poles and buildings. Given their ubiquity and connection to the electricity network, street light poles are viewed as a particularly effective and increasingly important means to improve the network coverage.
Convergence of Smart Street Lighting and 5G
These requirements for 5G networks are converging with other drivers for smart street lighting. For example, in February 2017, Infineon (a German semiconductor manufacturer) and eluminocity (smart street lighting solutions provider) announced a partnership to develop connected street lights with a scalable sensor hub, connectivity with support for 5G deployment, and data processing.
More recently, Philips announced plans to develop 4G/5G-enabled LED smart light poles with American Tower Corp., a real estate investment trust (REIT) providing communication towers and other transmission real estate. The smart light poles will not only house 5G network gears, but also connect to the Philips’ City Touch, a smart street lighting management platform.
5G Opportunities Expanding
As the smart street lighting deployment increases and 5G networks expand, there will be more opportunities for the two markets to be complementary to each other. To learn more about how smart street lighting can contribute to other city services, see the Navigant Research report Smart Street Lighting for Smart Cities.