Why 5G will make smart cities a reality

Why 5G will make smart cities a reality

As we move into the age of 5G and IoT technology, local governments will be able to turn infrastructure like roads, streetlights and traffic signals into smart city assets that can deliver real-time data to reduce congestion and improve air quality.  

These advances can’t come soon enough. By 2050, 68 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas, up from 55 percent today, according to the United Nations.

To prepare for this unprecedented urban population growth, businesses and local governments are making investments in 5G and IoT technology to create the smart cities of tomorrow, where humans and technology will interact in connected and intelligent ecosystems.

IDC forecasts smart city technology spending will reach $158 billion in 2022, with Singapore, Tokyo and New York leading the way. By the end of 2019, IDC predicts 40 percent of the world’s local and regional governments will begin implementing IoT in their cities.

What’s the connection?

Smart cities will be powered by 5G and current IoT technologies, such as Narrowband – IoT (NB-IoT), LTE Machine Type Communication (LTE-M) and Long Range (LoRa).

But the advent of 5G promises more than just more and faster data. It’s the technology that allows smart cities to develop, grow and thrive. For example, 5G will enable ultra-low latency, ultra-reliability, massive connectivity and devices with 10-plus years’ battery life – all catalysts for new and exciting use cases for smart cities.

5G promises major improvements to urban challenges like traffic congestion, pollution and mass transit. New technologies like autonomous vehicles will place huge demands on 5G networks, requiring continuous connectivity among vehicles, networks and even pedestrians, with minimal latency, so cars can react within milliseconds to avoid potential accidents.

Data, data everywhere

Smart cities will run on big data analytics engines fed by data captured at the source through IoT networks and sensors. Data centers are increasingly focused on bringing their locations and data processing closer to the source through edge computing. This trend toward a more widespread geographical footprint encourages the deployment of applications that require 5G’s low latency and bandwidth, such as autonomous driving.

5G will deliver lightning-fast data transfer speeds, while connecting sensors and smart assets among networks. This could help smart city decision makers react to crime, natural disasters or air quality issues in a fraction of the time.

Powering smart cities

Smart cities will rely heavily on the availability of fast, reliable and low latency mobile networks powered by 5G. But that bandwidth won’t come easily or at low cost.

Cellular providers are increasingly finding it difficult to place macrocell towers in congested urban areas. Providers have turned to deploying small cell technology on rooftops, telephone and utility poles, and street furniture like road signs, benches, and transit shelters, to provide additional capacity and coverage to meet the high demands of 5G.

Small cell technology provides a small fraction of the coverage of a macrocell due to lower power but plays a critical role in the creation of a heterogenous network, providing contiguous coverage, capacity and a consistent user experience, whether indoors or outdoors. Autonomous driving, mobile devices and IoT devices paired with the power of 5G will demand such connectivity.

Win big with 5G

Urbanites consume roughly 75 percent of the planet’s natural resources. To meet citizens’ future energy demands, cities will need to build a sustainable infrastructure. By doing so, smart cities powered by 5G would lower the cost and consumption of energy and other natural resources.


Smart city 5G innovations will help urban areas address a host of other challenges like natural disaster management, deteriorating infrastructure and crime. These advances could save the global economy as much as $22 trillion by 2050, according to the Global Commission on Economy and Climate.

Ultimately, 5G will help create the unified, connected and fully integrated infrastructure, advanced communication networks, automated transportation systems, water services and power grids necessary to support smart cities.

A partner for connectivity

Ramping up for a smart city infrastructure or expanding an existing one requires a partner like Flex with expertise in design and manufacturing to help you navigate and apply the advantages of 5G.  We can help you strategize and develop plans for connected, intelligent products and services that will create smarter cities and benefit the people who live in them.

We have been proactively investing in new technologies and capabilities for 5G such as millimeter wave (mmWave), Massive MIMO and beam forming to design, develop and manufacture our customers’ products with faster time to market.

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