AT&T Using Ericsson Radios on Streetlights to Boost 5G Deployments in Cities

AT&T Using Ericsson Radios on Streetlights to Boost 5G Deployments in Cities

New street-level solutions produced by Ericsson in partnership with smart city solution provider Ubicquia and supported by AT&T will power the 5G networks of the future that unlock the potential for exciting new services. It is clear that consumers and businesses demand high bandwidth and always-on connectivity for mobile devices and applications, especially in urban environments.

As demand for broadband connectivity and high data speeds increases, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are identifying creative ways to accelerate 5G rollouts while at the same time reducing the total cost of ownership. In urban environments, in particular, delays in site acquisition cost and the general challenges of getting permits approved by local councils, as well as concerns regarding the aesthetic aspects of installations are adding up to a challenge.

Since technologies like 5G require solutions that are closer to the edge of the network, these sites are critical for delivering service to consumers and businesses. To address these challenges, Ericsson, along with smart city solution provider Ubicquia and with support from AT&T, has partnered to introduce Ericsson Street Radio 4402.

These solutions can help CSPs deploy unobtrusive coverage in urban environments by seamlessly integrating with existing streetscapes.

A boom in 5G connections

The Ericsson Mobility Report forecast shows that 5G will account for almost half of all mobile subscriptions by 2027and identified $31 trillion addressable consumer revenues that will flow over 5G networks by 2030. Service providers could secure $3.7 trillion of this. 5G, with its low latency and high bandwidth, will speed mobile video streaming, enhance online gaming experiences in virtual worlds, and enhance sports and entertainment events.

But a macro cell network alone can’t provide the high-quality, always-on experience that mobile broadband customers will expect of 5G. In dense urban areas especially, small cell radio base stations are needed to complement the macro network. An outdoor small cell can cover a sizeable outdoor area, as well as indoor users on lower floors of buildings. While small cells are a vital tool for network operators, siting them in the urban areas where they’re most needed can be a laborious and expensive process. Site acquisition typically takes from nine to 22 months; actual deployment can take another six to 12 months. Meanwhile, the requirements for camouflage are continuously increasing and the local permitting process can be difficult.

Nearly Invisible 5G Sites

The ultra-compact, fully integrated Ericsson Street Radio small cell can be deployed globally by plugging into existing streetlights that utilize a National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) standardized connector. And it is virtually unseen from street level. The device sits just above the streetlight shield next to the light itself allowing it to blend into the existing infrastructure. No long wires and big, bulky boxes – a true aesthetic improvement. And in many cases the installation can be completed within just 15 minutes, transforming a streetlight into a low- or mid-band 5G site. 

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. By using existing infrastructure, this solution reduces costs, streamlines site approval and permitting, and speeds installation. These radios also have smart sensors that allow us to detect failed or downed streetlights in the event of a storm, blackout, or another disruptive event. This helps us in quickly assessing damage and dispatching crews for repairs or alerting the power provider of an issue.  

On the Horizon

One of the most critical pieces of protecting infrastructure investments is ensuring that new platforms, products, or upgrades can be seamlessly integrated with existing systems. Street Radios connect to the Ericsson family of basebands, whether they reside in a hub or at the site location, via various backhaul options including fiber and microwave.

The Ericsson Street Radio 4402 is compatible with the 360 million streetlights that light our roads, towns, and villages around the world. The Street Radio plugs into a global standard photocell socket (NEMA) and includes a revenue-grade meter that complies with local utility regulatory requirements.

The Street Radio’s real-time GPS and integrated tilt and vibration sensors provide pole-asset data to let mobile operators and utilities detect failed or downed streetlights. After events like storms or blackouts, these sensors can save critical time and costs. Operators can assess damage remotely to quickly determine the best response to a failed asset.

Global sustainability potential

The low profile and power consumption of these units is another key aspect of the product and can help contribute to CSP sustainability goals. All the existing bulbs on the light poles can be replaced with LED lights as a part of the deployment.

The ability to inventory and check the health of a pole remotely allows workers to attend to any outages or identify maintenance tasks remotely. All these activities result in less driving to the site for maintenance crews, helping contribute to the reduction in carbon footprint. Street Radio prototypes were trialed last year, and we are now in the process of field testing and deploying commercially available units in multiple cities. This project was nominated by the Global Mobile (GLOMO) Awards in Barcelona for “Best Mobile Network Infrastructure.

Leveraging the 360 million compatible streetlights globally simplifies, expands, and accelerates small-cell deployments. It vastly reduces the total cost of ownership for mobile network operators by lowering operations and maintenance expenses and increasing site availability.

Click here to learn more about Ericsson Street Solutions here.

Publisher: everything RF