Ensure ubiquitous high-speed broadband access. This is the first target exclusive to the telecommunications responsibility. Smart cities ensure best-of-breed, high-speed broadband access across their geography to all or most buildings. Since cities have different legacy investments and circumstances, and because technology will change rapidly in 20 years, we cannot make a definitive technical specification. As noted, however, today this typically means a fiber optic backbone combined with increasingly high bandwidth wireless technologies. Your goal should be to eventually connect virtually every business and home to that fiber loop (or to whatever technology you use in its place).
Important note: This target does not imply that a city needs to build out high-speed access at its own expense. In most parts of the world, broadband access is provided by the private sector. Elsewhere, public-private partnerships play a role. Even so, a city can provide valuable leadership, helpful incentives, and encouraging policies that go a long way to ensuring that residents and businesses have the access they need.
Ensure a citywide wireless network. This is the second and final target unique to telecommunications. A citywide wireless network ensures that people – whether at work, at play or otherwise on the go – are not tethered to stationary points of Internet access. A cellular or WiFi network empowers a city and everyone in it, creating competitive advantage and convenience.
Local-area wireless networks relying on unlicensed spectrum (ie WiFi) cannot be guaranteed to deliver this service reliably and in 100% of the areas needed. The optimal solution would be 3G/4G operator-managed networks (operating in licensed spectrum), likely augmented by WiFi and in the future, small cells, to handle more data in high-usage areas.
Because cities have several technology choices, most will want to work with private providers to identify the solution(s) right for them.
Citywide public wireless has been a luxury until recently. But we are seeing evidence that it is gradually becoming a must-have, at least for those cities that hope to attract high-income technology professionals. For instance, Austin, Texas in the spring of 2013 hammered out an agreement to deploy an ultra-high-speed Google Fiber network and later announced that a significant WiFi network would hook into it. The city of Vancouver, B.C. began deploying a citywide wireless network as outlined in its 2013 Digital Strategy, which calls wireless access “a fundamental aspect of any digital’ city” and one that “is expected by citizens.” And many cities are using mobile/cellular, including LTE, to ensure citywide coverage. Going forward, citywide wireless access is likely to be heterogeneous – that is, citizens and businesses will access a variety of wireless technologies in both licensed and unlicensed bands to get the best experiences.