Page loading...

Smart Cities and the Coming 5G Revolution

8 min read
Back to blog
Smart Cities and the Coming 5G Revolution

We’ve all heard the hype about the 5G revolution.

Faster speeds! New capabilities!

But does the hype match the reality? The short answer is yes.

The introduction of 5G mobile networks promises greater bandwidth (faster download speeds) and quicker communication between mobile networks and devices (latency).



The difference between 5G and present-day 4G capabilities is striking:



  • 5G delivers a peak speed of 20 Gbps, 20 times faster than 4G
  • Latency time on 5G networks is as little as 1 millisecond, 40 times faster than 4G


Millions of users around the world are already taking advantage of the new technology. Let’s take a look at how 5G might affect our digital universe with Five 5G Smart City Use Cases.


Traffic Management

Smart City managers install Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS) to limit congestion on roadways. These systems monitor traffic and identify travel patterns by utilizing AI and machine learning. An ITS can, for instance, change traffic light cycles based on the time of day and a sudden buildup of traffic.

The improved latency capabilities of 5G will allow sensors and devices that form a smart city’s traffic management infrastructure to communicate with each other at greater speed – and potentially save lives.

Here’s the scenario: a 5G smart city ITS identifies a 10-car pileup on the road. It also knows that oncoming drivers, traveling at high speed, have no idea what lies ahead. With greater latency capabilities, an IOT-enabled automobile will receive the signal to slow down, apply the brakes, and save valuable milliseconds before a larger pileup can occur.

A larger 5G bandwidth spectrum also means that traffic systems can communicate with a greater number of IOT sensors. Since calculating changes to traffic patterns involves a number of factors – number of cars on the road, time of day, visibility, past behavior of drivers in the same situation – smart city traffic systems can make tiny changes in driver’s behavior that will make a big difference on the flow of traffic.


Public Safety

This is an area where 5G capability will make an immediate and noticeable difference.

Today, municipal police departments largely depend on foot or automobile patrol to keep city residents safe. But in the near future, 5G technology will enable game-changing technology to revolutionize the area of public safety.

Since 5G operates at speeds of 20 to 40 times that of LTE-powered 4G networks, the capabilities of security cameras will grow exponentially. Not only will police departments receive video feeds at greater speeds, they will also be able to analyze more information with the aid of video processing.



Advanced 5G networks will also improve response times by emergency personnel – and give first responders new tools to save lives, including:



  • Body cameras
  • Augmented reality smart glasses
  • Connected headsets
  • Vital signs monitors


With the aid of these 5G future applications, command and control centers at police headquarters will be able to see, in real time, the same picture as emergency responders. Smart glasses in particular may one day allow emergency personnel to see through walls and help firefighters navigate smoke-filled rooms.

Ordinary citizens will also feel safer with 5G technology. Using just their smartphones, residents who are the victims of crime will have many more ways to contact police and emergency personnel. And since all information in a smart city is connected, police will be able to use that information to prevent future criminal actions.


Smart Utilities

World leaders have placed a great priority on weaning consumers and industries away from carbon-producing and polluting fossil fuels. The 2015 Paris Climate Accords set a goal of limiting global temperature increases to 2 degrees celsius worldwide and zero-net emissions by the middle of the 21st century.

Since the greatest increase in global temperatures is around cities – where major industries are located and in which people use energy to power their automobiles and homes – a smart utility infrastructure can go a long way toward addressing global warming.

Smart utilities are companies in the electric, water, and gas sectors that use IOT-enabled sensors across their networks to analyze their operations and provide more efficient services. 5G IOT smart city applications in this sector might include communications software, along with computer mapping.

Today, most utility meters are low-power devices operating on limited bandwidth. But when 5G arrives,smart utility providers will be able to automatically adjust output to better synchronize and stabilize water, gas, and electricity usage. That will lead to fewer service interruptions, and allow homes and businesses to more efficiently meter their resource output.


Public Transit

We’ve all seen science fiction movies in which sleek, futuristic trains whoosh into stations to efficiently load and unload passengers and tiny personal hover cars speed among the skyscrapers in a carefully synchronized ballet.

How close are we to that future now? Still years away, but some of the key technologies of that future world will be available in the next decade.

The introduction of 5G to public transport means a new era of urban mobility. With 5G access, cities will be able to improve public transportation and planning, reduce traffic congestion, and create new opportunities for alternative transit.

Today, most public transportation systems have the ability to track the location of trains and buses. The near-zero latency of 5G networks, however, will provide real-time monitoring of those vehicles, allowing smart city transportation managers to better match supply and demand.

We’ve all boarded buses only to find a few passengers present. With 5G connectivity, empty buses can be rerouted to high congestion areas, better serving commuters.

What’s more, since all traffic systems are seamlessly connected in a 5G-powered system, commuters will be able to choose among a number of routes to better speed them to their destination.


EV Charging Stations

Currently, EV charging stations are powered by a combination of ethernet, WIFI, and 4G LTE.

That kind of connectivity works well to charge a small number of electric vehicles, but as the number of EVs increase, the demand for bandwidth will only grow. With fuel prices at historic highs, more and more people are looking to purchase EVs, which today are three to six times less expensive to run than gas-powered vehicles.

All those new electric cars will require a reliable network to keep them functioning – and the availability of EV charging stations will be crucial in that process.

5G connectivity promises a reduction in latency by about 50 percent, according to one test project run by EVPassport. According to that company, improved latency will “lower cost and improve reliability for fleet-based EV charging stations.”



A masterplan for electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Europe produced by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association forecasts major EV investments in the years to come:



  • Up to 6.8 million public charging points are required by 2030 in order to reach the proposed 55% CO2 reduction for passenger cars.
  • Up to 14,000 public charging points need to be installed per week between 2021 and 2030 for cars – compared to just 2,000 per week currently.
  • Some 184 charging points will be needed for every 100 km of road for cars.


All those charging stations will require fast connections with greater bandwidth, precisely what 5G promises.


The 5G revolution is coming. Are you ready?

Read also