Smart cities or cities which collect data using electric sensors and use such data for the distribution of services are on the horizon. While India announced its plan to build 100 smart cities in 2015, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates recently invested $80 million into a planned smart city on the outskirts of Phoenix.

Both Gates’ and India's plans envision smart cities that will feature high-speed networks, data centers, autonomous cars and automated systems. A smart city does not only represent advanced technology but also improved urban infrastructure, which can function more efficiently in comparison to traditional infrastructure, using data and sensors.

A simple example to explain this would be regular traffic. As opposed to how traffic functions in a regular city, it might be better managed in a smart city, where cars could be equipped with imaging and proximity sensors and would be able to communicate with other cars. This exchange of data will prevent collisions. Such smart cars may also be able to communicate with smart traffic lights, sync with them and streamline the flow of traffic.

A connected city can not only provide convenience to its citizens but it can also ensure efficient utilization of resources — a smart city could save $160 billion in such benefits.

"One of the things about smart cities in many regards right now is that they are taking one-off use-cases like smart lighting and tackling it that way," Josh Aroner, vice-president of Marketing, Nokia Software and Services, told the International Business Times on the sidelines of the Nexterday North Antiseminar in Helsinki in September.

"What they really have to do is look at a lightbulb as an opportunity to collect data or to offer a service. So a smart light or a smart street light is also useful in traffic management and potentially, road making. It needs to be taken as a holistic approach to building a smarter city."

In a larger framework, every service would be data-dependent and use data from sensors to accurately deliver services. Such data is stored in the cloud and transferred using high-speed data connections. This is where 5G wireless comes in.

From the microcosm of a home which needs fast data transfer for a small, connected ecosystem to a connected city, which will generate much more data, data speeds are very important, not just for the transmission of this data but more importantly because of the need for the devices generating this data to be connected at all times. A high speed, locally deployed data network can ensure that data is transferred quickly so that real-life applications can work.

The fast deployment of 5G networks is key to not just to set-up smart cities, but also to keep them evolving at a desired pace.

Such networks are only expected to start being commercially deployed by 2020. Currently, tech companies are working on a range of challenges surrounding the technology such as removal of obstacles for highly sensitive 5G cables. More important is the utilization of the existing 4G infrastructure for 5G. Laying out new fiber cables for 5G networks will be costly, especially since the existing fiber networks will need to be replaced if this is done. Instead, many companies are working on wireless networks using antennae.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 5G will be the "virtual cornerstone for critical 21st-century opportunities related to economic growth, education, employment, transportation, and more."

Technologies such as autonomous cars, smart energy grids, transportation networks and water networks are expected to be controlled from the cloud in these cities. The robust functioning of this data, its storage and transmission are also dependent on 5G networks.

In essence, 5G networks are critical to not just the evolution, but the existence of smart cities.