On Thursday, the New Orleans City Council signed off on regulations for “small cell networks,” which could serve as the local foundation for 5G cellular technology. It’s a move that members of the council hope will make New Orleans more competitive with other larger cities.
It’s also another step towards making New Orleans a “smart city.”
Once available, 5G technology provides mobile browsing speeds up to eight times faster than that of 4G. It also makes available things like higher bandwidth, better energy efficiency, and more real-time capabilities, making it possible to implement things like pedestrian sensors at traffic lights.
All of this is necessary if New Orleans hopes to continue its trend towards becoming the tech center of the South.
Mayor Cantrell’s administration also hopes that 5G technology can help to bridge the digital divide that currently exists in the city. According to Kim LaGrue, New Orleans’ Chief Information Officer states that “Digital outreach programs, digital literacy programs, and opportunities to provide technology training to our residents is a fundamental part of the 5G era that we’re building in the culture of ‘smart cities’ in New Orleans.”
Select AT&T customers in New Orleans are already being offered some form of 5G. Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T have all promised more 5G devices are coming this year, and T-Mobile plans to launch their nationwide network in 2020.
The new rules approved by the city council ensure that no company can mount small cell nodes or other equipment on the city’s electricity poles or other city properties without first signing a 10 to 15-year franchise agreement with the city. Companies will also pay a series of fees with those agreements.
Verizon and Southern Light of Alabama will pay $300 per wireless facility installed on a city-owned asset per year, while AT&T will pay $25,000 for a 15-square-mile deployment area. That will increase by an additional $500 per year for each additional square mile, but has a cap of $100,000 per year.
While some worry that the technology might be unsafe, Councilmember Jason Williams, chairman of the Smart and Sustainable Cities Committee disagreed, citing studies from the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society, the Federal Communications Commission, and others.
“We cannot let apprehension hinder progress,” Williams stated. “We owe it to ourselves to make sure that our communication systems are built to withstand that bandwidth.”
Jenn Bentley is a writer and editor originally from Cadiz, Kentucky. Her writing has been featured in publications such as The Examiner, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, and others. When she’s not writing or editing, Jenn spends her time raising money for Extra Life and advocating for autism awareness.