Ubiquitous broadband telecommunication is a prerequisite for a smart city. This chapter explains how to achieve a telecommunications architecture that can serve as the foundation of a smart city and the foundation for major improvements in livability, workability and sustainability.

We begin by defining telecommunications, both as it exists today and as it will evolve tomorrow. After we discuss the “what,” we’ll talk about the “why” – why telecommunications is so vital to smart city success. We’ll finish by discussing the targets for telecommunications – the end states at which you should aim your efforts. Along the way, we will pay brief visits to telecommunications success stories from around the world.

First, though, a word about our use of the terms “telecommunications” and “connectivity.” Dictionaries define telecommunications as the electronic transmission of signals. When we use the word in this Guide, we are talking about a city responsibility to provide the policy environment and incentives to achieve high-quality telecommunications. However, city responsibilities such as power, public safety and transportation depend on telecommunications. In that sense, telecommunications is also an enabler. When we are talking about the technology in that sense, we use the term “connectivity” to make the distinction. You’ll see the word “connectivity” listed in the Smart Cities Council Framework along with other enablers such as instrumentation and computing resources.

In the 21st century, people and businesses consume telecommunications like a resource, just as they consume electricity to light their homes and water to quench their thirst. As a result, it is vital that cities take on the responsibility of ensuring adequate telecommunications so their residents have access to high-quality communications. Cities don’t have to build, own and operate the infrastructure – in fact most will not. But they must at least continue to set the conditions and policies that incentivize the private sector to install state-of-the-art telecommunications.

Telecommunications also acts as an enabler by providing connectivity. All the other responsibilities – water, power, transportation, etc. – require connectivity to communicate with the sensors and devices they use to collect data. That’s why the Universal chapter already specified a universal target of “Connect devices with citywide, multi-service communications.” In other words, you’ve got two important reasons to pay close attention to telecommunications: 1) for the value it creates on its own and 2) for the value it enables for all the other responsibilities.