AT&T is speeding 5G deployment by leveraging one of the most common sights of everyday life: the streetlight.
Gordon Mansfield, the carrier’s vice president of Mobility Access & Architecture, wrote in a blog post that 5G deployments are slowed by the need to acquire sites, engineer designs and secure permits. As a result, the installation process can take as long as 12 to 18 months.
It behooves AT&T to find ways to make the process quicker. The carrier, smart solutions provider Ubicquia and Ericsson think they have a good solution for low- and mid-band spectrum: The Ericsson Street Radio 4402.
AT&T 5G Streetlight Deployment
The radio plugs into streetlights with a National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) standardized connector. Prototypes were trialed last year and field tests and commercial deployments now are ongoing in multiple cities.
“Streetlights are also the perfect deployment point for meeting network infrastructure densification needs because they are typically 8 to 10 meters high, spaced 50 meters apart, have an existing power supply and are within close proximity to fiber,” Mansfield wrote in the blog post. “By using existing infrastructure, this solution reduces costs, streamlines site approval and permitting, and speeds installation.”
Mansfield wrote that the units can be installed in 15 minutes. Another benefit is that the smart sensors in the radios enable failed or downed streetlights, blackouts and other events to be reported. This telemetry can help assess the damage and facilitate corrective action.
Mansfield wrote that “other operators will be able to utilize the technology in the future,” though he didn’t elaborate.
Last month, the FCC announced the winners of Auction 110, which focused on mid-band 3.45 GHz spectrum. AT&T spent $9.1 billion for 1,624 licenses. Securing those licenses adds to AT&T’s 5G spectrum holdings, effectively giving them near nationwide coverage with that mid-band spectrum.