We all have expectations for our mobile connectivity experience, and thanks to 5G, that experience is about to get better. 5G enables faster speeds, more connected devices, and noticeably better responsiveness because of lower network latency. 5G is capable of delivering much more connectivity and capacity than is currently possible over 4G networks. These are all welcome improvements that the residents of New York will quickly grow accustomed to, now that all the major service providers have taken steps to introduce 5G services across the city.

The effect that 5G will have on a city like New York is far-reaching. It will help fuel new innovations and create an immersive world of interactive services and experiences, all delivered in real-time. 5G connections are not limited to person-to-person communications either, it allows vast numbers of machine-to-machine communications. This will lay the foundation for new services and applications that will help to transform the daily lives of the city’s residents.

The 5G inner-city experience

Tests conducted on live 5G networks have recorded speeds of over one gigabit-per-second, which is fast enough to let you download an entire season of your favorite show in less than a minute. Reduced latency adds new dimensions to the way we interact with digital content and entertainment services. 5G enables us to stream high-definition video content on the move, with virtually no interference or disruption to the viewing experience. The same can be said about online and cloud gaming, which are rapidly offering more immersive and interactive experiences. It won’t be long before both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) games become commonplace because of the capability of the new 5G infrastructure.

According to CTIA, the rollout of 5G will create three million new jobs and generate $550bn in economic growth in the US alone by 2024. Major metropolitan areas like New York are likely to be among the first to welcome these economic benefits. 5G will be the catalyst for growth in digital segments such as gaming, media, and entertainment, but also in other sectors like automotive, healthcare and even financial services.

5G Visitors at the 5G Exhibition at the Qualcomm booth at CES 2019 consumer electronics show at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Jan. 10, 2019. Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

For example, it’s expected that 5G will help more financial institutions reap the benefits of artificial intelligence, as it will improve both the speed and security of the technology. At the same time, 5G could potentially help these institutions to digitally transform and create new services for their customers, supporting wireless transactions and mobile payments.

5G technologies will form the backbone infrastructure for smart city communications and applications. They will enable networks to carry the required amounts of real-time information needed to create the analytics needed to make the city “Smart.”  These connections between almost every type of smart device, appliance or machine, will allow cities to reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions, manage waste disposal, conserve energy and optimize the efficiency of utilities. 5G will even facilitate communications between smart cars, and eventually driverless cars, that will be constantly connecting to the larger smart city network.

A smart city demands an adaptive and intelligent network

The roll-out of 5G in New York, as well as all major cities, is only just beginning. There is a lot that needs to be done before 5G can meet the digital demands of large, varied and densely populated cities.

In New York, 5G is currently only available is some of the busiest metropolitan areas, but that will change over time. Today, a number of service providers are deploying 5G networks which operate in the millimeter wave spectrum. This extremely high-frequency spectrum can produce tremendously fast data speeds. However, the radio waves don’t travel as far as spectrum in the lower radio bands, used in technology such as 4G.

Consequently, networks that utilize 5G technologies need more antennas to reliably cover a particular geography. This densification of the network edge is not just an issue of installing more cellular antennas and radios (which provide the wireless signals), but also a case of installing more fiber to these cell sites. Doing so will help to ensure that networks offer the capacity to support continued growth in bandwidth-intensive services, and that they can meet even wider performance goals.

As 5G networks are leveraged to enable new use cases as part of wider smart-city initiatives, they must also be equipped to deal with the extensive variations in usage associated with everyday life in a major city.

New York is the definition of a twenty-four-seven city. There are well-known seasonal, as well as time-of-day variations associated with tourism, commuters, sporting events, Broadway theatres, the opening and closing of various businesses and financial exchanges. There are also the unexpected events brought on by weather, social and political events, as well as emergency responses requiring city resources to be well-coordinated. Roads and rail transport networks are all subject to congestion which will require systems to re-route people and vehicles to other destinations. Consequently, networks need to be intelligent and adaptive in order to intuitively adjust to these ever-changing conditions.

Today, service providers are introducing software that incorporates artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, which can be as smart and dynamic as the smart cities themselves. New software innovations can analyze data patterns and identify abnormalities, spikes of traffic or congestion in the network and instruct the network to take appropriate action.

Networks are being built today with this level of intelligence. New York is the perfect place for service providers to demonstrate the broad benefits that next generation connectivity can have on the economics and social fabric of a major city.

(Steve Alexander is Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Ciena.)