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AT&T begins deploying discreet 5G radios using city street lights

AT&T has commenced installing 5G radios, but you won’t notice because they are perfectly hidden away on city street lampposts.

If you want to know where the radios connect you to AT&T’s 5G network, they are much closer to you than you realize. You can walk past them without even noticing as the network operator is concealing them on lamp posts. This means your lamp posts now do one more task apart from bringing you light.

These new radios were jointly developed by AT&T, Ericsson, and Ubicquia, an urban solutions company.

Describing the 5G radios, Gordon Mansfield, VP of mobility access and architecture at AT&T, wrote, “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.”

Mansfield also explained why AT&T chose to deploy the radios on street lamps, “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 other disruptive events. This helps us in quickly assessing damage and dispatching crews for repairs or alerting the power provider of an issue.”

Other benefits of this deployment include a faster rollout time as traditional deployment could take up to 18 months due to the multiple levels of permits required. “One of the most significant challenges network operators face in deploying new mobile network infrastructure is the time it takes to work through the process of acquiring sites, engineering designs and securing permits – and that’s all before construction even begins. Across the industry, adding new 5G locations can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months on average, which also means it’s ripe for innovative solutions.”

AT&T started trialing last year and is not field testing and deploying commercially available units in multiple cities. Mansfield believes the new radios “could play a role in helping bring5G to some underserved areas and further meet our company commitment to closing the digital divide.”

Street lights have been used to provide public services like public Wi-Fi, security cameras, gunshot detection, etc. Some companies are also installing electric vehicle charging points on street lights for people who have to park on the street.

Using street lights to host 5G radios lets network operators avoid making the skyline busier and uglier. It also helps reduce incidences of vandalism.

Written by HackerVibes

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