How San Jose's building on its own momentum (with help from its tech partners)

Two months ago we shared a story about San Jose's agreement with Council Global Lead Partner AT&T for the deployment of small cell technology to improve citywide wireless communications, enhance its first responders communications network, provide internet access for low-income residents and set the stage for more smart city applications to help its achieve its Smart City Vision goals. While those goals remain the same, the scope of the project has grown — as has the city's roster of technology partners. The story below outlines the project, but it also exemplifies two key points for other cities that want to become smarter and more livable: the value of public-private partnerships and the importance of ensuring project outcomes are equitable and inclusive, that everyone benefits. — Doug Peeples


As the result of new agreements with AT&T, Council Lead Partner Verizon and wireless infrastructure company Mobilitie, San Jose's broadband infrastructure improvement initiative has grown dramatically in size and scope.

The project announced in April called for installing small cells, which boost short-range wireless signals and are necessary for next-generation 5G mobile technology, on 200 city street light poles. Now, the city says small cells will be deployed on approximately 4,000 poles to support new and improved services.

"Upgrading San Jose's broadband infrastructure is key to building a smarter city, advancing our long-term economic competitiveness, and connecting residents who lack internet access to affordable, high-quality internet service," said Mayor Sam Liccardo in the city's announcement. "Through these three agreements covering all three major carriers, we will both lay the groundwork for future deployment of 5G service in our community and generate millions of dollars to fund our efforts to close the digital divide in San Jose."

And speaking of millions…
The three carriers' investments in small cell, fiber installations and related infrastructure from the three carriers are expected to total more than $500 million. While small cell installations are already in operation in cities such as New York and Chicago, San Jose claims its deployment is the largest of any U.S. city. The agreements also call for AT&T, Verizon and Mobilitie to contribute approximately $24 million to the city's Digital Inclusion Fund over the next 10 years. The fund was established as a way to ensure internet access for the 95,000 residents who don't have the service in their homes now.

While the three carriers will work together, their agreements with the city are for specific responsibilities:

  • AT&T: In addition to small cell installations, AT&T and the city expect to conduct pilots for a variety of smart city solutions, which could include LED street lighting, public Wi-Fi and AT&T's Digital Infrastructure and Infrastructure Monitoring.
  • Verizon: Along with small cell installations, Verizon will install fiber, upgrade several existing cell towers and work with the city to piliot traffic management-related smart city technologies.
  • Mobilitie: The company also will deploy small cells, including currently underserved areas and establish a framework for 5G technology and other wireless services that could become available in the future.

The City Council will consider the agreements early next week.

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.