So what does it look like?
Cars that drive themselves, computer systems that detect where gunshots occur and traffic signals and emergency services that talk to each other.
These technologies already exist. But governments, businesses and entrepreneurs say their potential – and the potential for the unknown – can’t be reached without wireless data infrastructure fast enough to keep up.
That’s why Sioux Falls and dozens of other cities across the country are jockeying to be among America’s first “smart cities” that use fifth-generation (5G) internet. Officials believe 5G make their operations more efficient, sustainable and economical.
“We’ve only scratched the surface … to what’s possible,” said Jason Reisdorfer, the innovation and technology director for the city of Sioux Falls who’s working with technology based companies like Amazon and Verizon Wireless to put 5G to use as soon as it’s available in Sioux Falls.
WHAT IS 5G?
Over the last half century, technological advancements brought the world from analog voice calls enabled by the first generation (1G) of wireless technology all the way to live-streaming high resolution videos through handheld devices and computers with the advent of 4G internet in 2008.
Though 5G network technology is in its infancy, wireless communication companies developing it are targeting higher data rates that allow communication between devices exponentially faster than what 4G provides.
“If 4G is a two lane highway with cars going back and forth,” Reisdorfer said. “(5G) is like a 20 lane super highway.”
5G, which promises blistering download speeds, is coming soon.
But what is 5g?
How will 5G be used?
Launching 5G, though, doesn’t mean 4G is going away. Mary Julius, a real estate manager for Verizon Wireless, said at a recent City Council meeting that 5G will primarily be used to supplement the 4G network when it becomes overloaded and data speeds slow. When that happens, the 5G towers will kick in to get data streaming at speeds cellphone users have come to expect.
That means 5G towers are most likely to be placed in areas of town where large amounts of people congregate, like commerce centers and sports and entertainment venues.
“The small cells that we’re talking about right now are for capacity offload to the existing macro sites,” Julius said. “When the existing macro-sites are challenged, we need to sort of supplement and add capacity with the small cells.”
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Verizon Wireless is expected to begin rolling out the small 5G micro tower cells in 2019, with applications in the city’s queue to attach more than 20 of them to city light poles in three Sioux Falls neighborhoods – near Kuehn Park, 69th Street and Cliff Avenue and 10th Street and Phillips Avenue.
While practical uses of 5G beyond simply supplementing 4G capacities are still years away, Reisdorfer and Jon Klemme, the city’s information technology manager, have already prioritized a short list of more advanced uses of the technology.
Among them, using light and motion censors on city light poles that would reduce energy costs by enabling street lights to dim and brighten at optimal times. A network of 5G towers could also be modulated to alert law enforcement when and where a gun goes off, when a West Nile-carrying mosquito ends up in a city vector trap, or relay air quality reports to the city health office in an instance.
The traffic division of the city could also use 5G technology to analyse street intersections for near-miss collisions between vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles.
All of these programs and processes are possible already through 4G technology, but 5G would ensure data frequencies don’t get bogged down and disrupt the network infrastructure that Sioux Falls is already using, Klemme said.
“We’re leaning on Verizon to build the network out, but we’re working on this stuff now so we can hit the ground running when they do,” he said. “Once the network is built out, it becomes the platform for all these other things.”
Reisdorfer said his office has a “big hairy audacious goal” to begin implementing 5G-based services and operations in February 2020, which could include the intersection analysis, smart street lights and the various sensor-based applications throughout the city to monitor everything from air quality, mosquito traps and pollen levels, and up to 15 other modular uses of 5G.
And from there, the possibilities are endless, he said.
“We don’t even know what we don’t know yet,” Reisdorfer said. “But we know you have to have these towers to decrease latency and you have to be able to have super fast responses.”
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