American Tower's booth at Mobile World Congress Americas

Timing Really Is Everything

My discussions at Mobile World Congress confirm the smart pole is the right innovation at the right time

I’ve been back from Mobile World Congress (MWC) Americas for a few weeks now, and when I think about the discussions I had while I was there, there’s one key point that keeps coming back to me: Timing is everything. The smart pole was a big hit at MWC because everything that it brings to cities, and carriers, is exactly what’s needed, right now.

Cities Can Address Several Challenges at Once

Every major city in the U.S. has hundreds of thousands of existing light poles. At some point, that lighting will need to be replaced. And cities are always looking to improve broadband services for residents — especially cities that are working on smart city initiatives.

City officials are excited about the smart pole because it’s aesthetically pleasing and lets them meet several needs in a single creative solution:

  • Provide the lighting needed for safe and vibrant city life
  • Improve broadband services, while making use of existing infrastructure locations and power feeds
  • Support multiple carriers in a single solution to offer residents more choice, deliver a wider variety of smart city services, and hopefully relieve some of the administrative burden that comes with permitting

Carriers Have a New Way to Deploy Small Cells

The carriers I talked to at MWC are looking for innovative ways to bring small cells to urban environments. Carriers need to constantly expand coverage and capacity to support ravenous data consumption in urban environments.

Cities and carriers have been doing their best to keep small cells out of sight, but it’s getting harder. Because I’ve been in the tech business so long, I’m always trying to spot where my cell signal is coming from as I walk down the street in a major city. The smart pole hides small cells in plain sight. Carriers gain access to hundreds of thousands of new locations, and they can offer higher quality services to their customers.

Cities Want Innovative Solution for Ubiquitous Mobile Broadband

I was also lucky enough to speak to several municipalities at MWC when they visited our booth to learn more about our solution. Our smart pole was designed to help both carriers and the public with access to mobile broadband and an effective and efficient way to deploy mobile infrastructure.

Our creative innovations, such as the smart pole, help to lower the digital divide by bringing wireless broadband to more people in more places, which is an important goal for cities. And finally, it was very interesting to discuss the fact that this particular innovation is occurring at street level, where, historically, we have not seen a lot of innovation when it comes to mobile technology.

Patrice McAree is Vice President of Innovation at American Tower Corporation. He can be reached at patrice.mcaree@americantower.com
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