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AT&T to Deploy Small Cells, Smart City Infrastructure in San Jose

Kelsey Kusterer Ziser

AT&T has set its sights on San Jose for its latest smart cities partnership and will deploy small cell and fiber infrastructure to support the initiative and make the municipality 5G ready.

"With San Jose sitting in the middle of Silicon Valley and having forward-thinking leadership, it certainly made it easy for us to decide to focus some resources there," says Mike Zeto, VP of AT&T IoT. "We've been in talks with them for quite some time so this is a culmination of a lot of work and good leadership in the city of San Jose with Mayor Sam Liccardo and Smart City Lead Dolan Beckel."

San Jose, California
San Jose is home to 1.025 million as of 2016, according to the US Census Bureau.  (Image source: AT&T)
San Jose is home to 1.025 million as of 2016, according to the US Census Bureau.
(Image source: AT&T)

The service provider plans to deploy thousands of small cells across the city -- on light poles, rooftops, traffic lights and other structures -- to improve voice and data capacity and support future standards-based, mobile 5G services. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) initially announced a small cell deployment partnership with San Jose in April, and plans to start deploying 5G in San Jose in the first half of 2019. (See AT&T & City of San Jose Form Smart Cities Public-Private Partnership and AT&T Reveals Initial 5G Cities.)

"When we talk about IoT and smart cities solutions being connected, they'll be connected many different ways – that could be fiber, cellular, WiFi, 4G LTE, 5G eventually and LTE-M," says Zeto. "Fiber is one connectivity option and then once you have 5G those 5G small cells will be connected with fiber as well."

Improved network densification from small cell deployment and the expanded fiber network will also support San Jose's ability to monitor the data and analytics from new IoT devices and applications, and monitor the success of those deployments, says Zeto.

"The data and analytics piece is a big part of this, so you can develop out the ROIs, measure the results and make sure you're solving for the right problems," he adds.

San Jose and AT&T will begin piloting a range smart cities applications such as connected LED Smart Lighting, new public safety and emergency preparedness services, deployment of air quality sensors, public WiFi projects and other IoT applications. Zeto says the operator also plans to deploy AT&T Digital Infrastructure and Structure Monitoring efforts to track changes in San Jose's infrastructure, providing live insights into potential tilts or cracks in elevated roads and bridges, explains Zeto.

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Small cell deployments will also bolster AT&T's FirstNet emergency communications network by providing more network capacity for first responders. Zeto says increased network capacity will improve public safety and emergency personnel's responsiveness by supporting near real-time, low latency transfer of live feeds from emergency personnel's body cameras back to their commanders, for example.

As its fiber network is foundational to 5G connectivity, AT&T also plans to continue its fiber investment in San Jose. Ideally this continued expansion will help lessen the digital divide in the city -- nearly 100,000 San Jose residents lack a broadband connection at home, according to a blog post on Medium last October by San Jose's Smart City Lead Dolan Beckel Beckel.

"Upgrading San Jose's broadband infrastructure is key to building a smarter city, advancing our long term economic competitiveness, and connecting residents who lack access to affordable, high-quality internet service," says Mayor Sam Liccardo in the announcement.

— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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