IBM defines a Smart City as “one that makes optimal use of all the interconnected information available today to better understand and control its operations and optimize the use of limited resources.” This requires an extremely connected society where all services are provided end-to-end digitally, and highly connected infrastructure.
The concept of a smart city / smart community is not something new; it has been around for ages. There have been many breakthroughs in the field of communication in recent years that have brought this dream closer to reality. One of the most significant breakthroughs was IoT.
IoT has removed one of the biggest obstacles, i.e., connection-enabled end-user devices. All IoT devices have the capability of connecting to the network wirelessly at a reduced cost.
The second biggest limitation is to have a data network that connects all the IoT devices to each other, the server, and the internet. Traditionally, the data networks have been LAN (Local area network/wired) and WLAN (wireless local area network) based. LAN utilizes wires which are very inconvenient, labor-intensive, and costly, whereas WLAN is convenient and less labor-intensive but still very costly if you want to cover a large area because of its shorter range. A lot of access points will be needed to achieve complete coverage.
Another major cost that needs to be accounted for is the per-connection charges that are being paid to the network provider. These are huge OPEX and CAPEX costs.
The technology that has really made it possible to achieve a truly connected smart community is CBRS-based Private LTE and 5G networks. CBRS is an abbreviation or acronym for Citizens Broadband Radio Service. It’s a communication spectrum and band that isn’t used by any telecommunication service provider and is open for public use. Using this spectrum, anyone can create private cellular networks under 2 tiers. Tier 2 Priority Access License (PAL) is a paid tier that gives its user priority for the use of this spectrum, while Tier 3 General Authorized Access (GAA) is a free, shared tier that anyone can use and may get overburdened in a densely populated area. Tier 1 is reserved for US Federal Govt. use.
There are 3 main levels of telecommunication equipment required to create a smart community data network:
CPEs are the basic nodes or devices that generate a telecommunication network or cellular network between 3.5GHz to 3.7GHz, so they are CBRS-based 4G and 5G cellular networks. This CBRS 4G/5G will be essential for a smart community / smart city. This will be the basic backbone network on which everything will be connected to each other. Specifically configured SIMs and eSIMs can be used to connect mobile phones to this network. Major cell phone, tablet, and laptop manufacturers are manufacturing CBRS-enabled devices.
This is the most widely used device. CBRS WIFI devices are used to translate CBRS 4G/5G signals into WIFI signals. We see these devices every day at our homes in the form of WIFI routers. In a smart city, these devices will create a wireless local area network or WLAN that will enable non-cellular devices to connect to the wider network. Personal CBRS Enable Devices
These lesser-used devices are used on personal devices that are used to directly connect non-CBRS-enabled personal devices to connect with the CBRS network directly. They are generally dongles that are used to connect laptops and PCs directly to the CBRS network. In a smart city scenario, these devices enable the end users to directly connect to the CBRS network.
CBRS network removes all the earlier-mentioned obstacles by utilizing the above-mentioned devices. Instead of forming a WLAN network, smart cities can create a CBRS network which is much cheaper and requires lesser devices to cover a wider area. Although it may require CAPEX to inform of initial equipment setup cost but will save up OPEX that would have been incurred in form of payments to the network carriers.