Originally published to NEDAS

The telecom industry is home to boundless potential and presents an exciting morrow, which exhibits promising opportunities for a more connected, convenient and smart society. The creation of smart cities operating in a 5G world with widespread network deployments that seamlessly coalesce with their environments is an attractive and believably attainable goal on the industry’s horizon. However, to reach these long-term objectives, the existing gap between the present approach to industry infrastructure and the future of telecom deployment must be bridged. As demands grow and change, the simple implementation problems that hinder current infrastructure methods, such as space, cost and time to market, are requiring increasingly complex solutions.

Finding successful pathways that allow carriers and metro areas to maneuver around these constrictions was just one of the topics up for discussion at NEDAS 2018 NYC Summit, which featured a panel on the subject with insights from distinguished industry cognoscenti. The panel group, comprised of experts from across the telecom sector, examined the issues facing telecom infrastructure today and how they can be overcome in order to move toward a more seamlessly enabled future.

Victoria Lamberth, Chief Revenue Officer at ZenFi Networks,  identified and delved into prominent industry roadblocks, citing the need for capacity, spectral efficiency and the subsequent requirement of additional nodes and fiber to support increased demand as major hurdles. She further explored how the limited nature of installation spaces and opportunities in metro areas like New York City create a highly competitive and restrictive market for franchise holders. Time to market is also a major concern, with projects taking up to a year to complete. Ultimately, cost was pinpointed as the biggest issue facing the industry as it stands now. The congestion of city sites makes the physical installation harder, which in turn causes a significant rise in deployment costs. With deployment and installation often being the most expensive components of any project, the costs of which have doubled over the course of 10 years, reducing the financial burden is key. In a world that necessitates an increasing amount of power and fiber, a simplified, efficient and cost-effective method for building out critical infrastructure becomes paramount.

One of the most exciting solutions to these problems is a focus on creating components that are functional for operators, carriers and providers while remaining appealing and unobjectionable to residents in these critical market areas. Specifically, multi-use structures are becoming the new wave in telecom. As Jerry Kirshman, Chief Operating Officer and President of Galtronics, noted, no longer do traffic lights have to be just traffic lights. Providers are trending towards disguising transmitting points and wireless locations as common objects found in any city or municipality, such as bus shelters or street lights. Deploying antennas and boxes in this way serves to reduce clutter and maximize utility by creating more siting options for deployment, easing strain and competition in the market and bring prices down. Not only is this method effective, but it’s aesthetically beneficial to the surrounding environments and paves the way for smart city designs.

With this unique market solution of multi-use deployments at the forefront of a growing market, the industry is able to implement future-proof, permanent designs that can be equipped with IoT functions, such as cameras, traffic counters or environmental sensors. Jim Lockwood, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Aero Solutions LLC, discussed how CityPole™ installations are effectively utilizing space and facilitating resident-friendly densification for cities while also working upstream with municipalities to ensure satisfaction. These methods ensure less wasted space with more opportunity for functional installations. This subsequently allows for less cluttered infrastructure, so providers can get power and fiber where they need it with less congestion. Going forward, this promises to be a productive pathway towards smart cities of the future and successfully solves many of the concerns surrounding capacity, space, and cost.

While this multi-use method proves to garner the most attention, other solutions to industry issues have the potential to solve critical complications. In addition to the disguised deployment approach, Alex Gamota, Senior Vice President of Information and Communication Technologies at BigBelly, mentioned the sharing of fiber across multiple revenue streams as a way to bring down costs and facilitate a future of 5G.

As Ari Zoldan, CEO of Quantum Media Group, stated, the future of the telecom space is a “wild west.” Impressive strides towards a future with widespread 5G and IoT enabled installations are being made every day, with industry minds tackling setbacks as fast as they spring up. The telecom sector is embracing change and working on honing a process that could pave the way for the coordination and integration of city-wide smart networks, or create a seamless on-ramp for eventual applications such as 5G deployment. Of course, there are still questions to be answered and problems to be solved, but the bright future currently envisioned may be closer than it seems.