Schenectady OKs licensing agreement for 5G tech

Verizon to use up to 500 utility poles

SCHENECTADY — The City Council has approved entering into a licensing agreement with Verizon, a measure officials hope will pave the way for an eventual citywide 5G wireless network.

The resolution was passed unanimously on Monday.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said the agreement will allow the provider to install small-cell technology on as many as 500 city-owned utility poles. 

But the mayor said it’s premature to disclose when and how many of the small-cell units will eventually be deployed on the poles. 

“[Verizon] is initially looking at a very low number,” he said.

National Grid owns the vast majority of street lights in the city, and the agreement is unrelated to their infrastructure. 

The deal will not preclude other providers from participating in an eventual build-out of a citywide 5G network, McCarthy said.

“This is positioning the city to show that we’re setting the standard so companies know what the rules are for the evolving definition of 5G,” he said. 

The fifth-generation of cellular networking is designed to eventually replace 4G, commonly referred to as “LTE.” The latest iteration of cellular technology is designed to increase signal speeds and sharply boost the amount of data that can be transmitted. 

The agreement, said the mayor, is an early blueprint and illustrates the city is open to working with various providers to be able to show how the city is competitive in weighing “wireless and sensor-based technologies.”

“5G will be moving towards smaller towers but they will be more frequent,” McCarthy said. 

The technology constitutes a critical component of the mayor’s Smart Cities initiative, a plan to leverage the latest technological advances to deliver government services. 

Usage of the 5G service will go beyond simply accessing the internet and can apply to any technological initiatives as part of “smart” technology efforts, whether launching energy-saving programs, dimming street lights or transferring footage shot from dashboard-mounted cameras in patrol cars. 

The mayor told the City Council last week that the Federal Communications Commission has set policies and standards for 5G technology and established a set rate of $270 for how much localities could charge for rental space on utility poles. 

That means providers don’t need to negotiate rates in each different community.

The mayor said it’s too early to estimate potential revenues from the equipment.

“That’s a few years out before you have that,” he said.

But the package will allow him to negotiate with Verizon and move forward with small-cell deployment.

Verizon said they’ve been working closely with city officials to create a plan. 

“New small cells and fiber are key to the continued improvement of our 4G network and represent the groundwork needed as we plan our 5G deployments across the country,” said Verizon spokesman David Weissmann on Monday. “We look forward to completing an agreement that will allow us to move forward in the city of Schenectady.”

By the end of the year, there should be 5G in around 30 U.S. cities, the Wall Street Journal reported.

McCarthy pointed at Poughkeepsie and Syracuse as models for the agreement.

Syracuse seems to be further along in developing a citywide 5G network than Schenectady. 

The Syracuse Common Council in May approved a deal with Verizon that lets the company build a 5G network citywide, installing 600 units on almost every block in the city over the next half-decade, according to | The Post-Standard.

The provider will begin installing their 5G cell towers this summer, the newspaper reported.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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