The rise of the smart city will be one of the biggest challenges for network providers and installers in the coming years. As the global population becomes more urbanised, the number of people living and working in cities is set for a huge increase, and this will add huge pressure to existing infrastructure solutions.
Estimates from the United Nations forecast that by 2050, 68 per cent of the global population will live in cities, up from 55 per cent in 2018. Therefore, systems ranging from transport services to utility infrastructure and entertainment networks will have to not only increase their capacity, but be smarter in how they manage the increased usage.
As a result, strong connectivity will be fundamental to the effective working of any smart city. This is something that will require long-term planning and careful management to ensure networks do not become overstretched or sprawl out of control. So, what are some of the key factors that must be taken into account when planning such projects?
The importance of convergence
A key element of any smart city network will be the need to bring together a wide range of disparate systems. It was noted by Alexy Luecke, brand marketing specialist for CommScope, that today's cities are currently covered by a variety of networks, including those built by traditional telcos, cable operators, internet and neutral host providers, utilities and municipalities.
This means there are multiple cable networks and wireless solutions all competing for limited space. As well as the potential for bottlenecks to emerge, as greater demands are placed on these systems, there are also physical issues to consider.
If cities persist with this wide range of networks, it will mean that every time a new network is implemented or needs to be upgraded, streets will have to be dug up again and again for installations.
By looking to integrate these disparate systems into single solutions, much of this time and expense can be avoided. "By planning for convergence, both wireless and wireline networks can be installed at the same time, which maximises asset," Ms Luecke continued.
A long-term strategy
Ensuring that a smart city has an effective converged networking system requires forward thinking, with planners taking into account the potential for new future networking uses that may not be necessary at the present time.
Emerging applications will significantly change the demands being placed on these networks, and if planners have not looked at the long term, they are likely to find they need to go back and replace critical infrastructure after only a few years, again adding significant costs to any project.
For example, one way in which city planners can ensure their networks are futureproofed is by bringing fibre connectivity to light poles. While this may not be needed right now, the added bandwidth and speeds on offer will enable small cells and other applications to be easily and more cost-effectively added to the pole at a later date.
With the number of Internet of Things devices connected to smart city networks set for huge growth in the coming years, having this kind of infrastructure already built-in means smart city planners can be prepared for whatever the coming years hold. A converged network will make it easier to upgrade systems, add new capabilities and give their city an edge in a competitive market.