Smart Neighborhoods

This paper re-images neighborhoods to improve the quality of life and create a future that’s richer and more sustainable.

Just as Smart Cities utilize thousands of sensors to manage city resources, Smart Neighborhoods enable each community to take charge, share tools, track pets or bikes, communicate, improve neighborhood health and welfare.

It’s the Neighborhood Public Radio (NPR) model.

The goal is to enable each neighborhood to control its own destiny. Community controlled wireless networks, using the “free” 3.5 GHz band, is the key enabler of this vision.

Smart Neighborhoods are bigger than Smart Homes and smaller than Smart Cities. They are run by neighborhood organizations or community newspapers and use the Internet of Things technology of Smart Cities.

A Smart Neighborhood, in this vision, would allow community members to become the owner/operator of their own broadband network. Each neighborhood can opt-in or opt-out on a variety of community-based services. Revenues can be returned to the neighborhood not distant corporations. Neighborhood Public Radio.

We are an island. It’s easy to define the boundaries in a small pilot project. The partnership between Google’s Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto shows what a Smart Neighborhood writ large could deliver. Sidewalk Labs, in its RFP to Toronto defined their vision of a “Smart City”.

Sidewalk Toronto” (pdf), is North America’s largest example of the smart city, an urban district that is built around information technology. It uses data about traffic, noise, air quality and the performance of systems including trash bins and the electrical grid, to guide its operation. Access to those systems and the use of that data, in this private-public partnership, will raise novel policy questions for governments about privacy and governance, reports The Globe and Mail.

Sidewalk’s initial ideas – in a 220-page document – represents significant innovation in architecture and urban design. Private cars would be banned; streets would be served by autonomous vehicles and freight robots move in underground tunnels. Waterfront Toronto – an agency controlled by city, provincial and federal governments – is tasked with redeveloping 2,000 acres of brownfield land as a test bed.

The Sidewalk Team comes from the ground-breaking Hudson Yards development in NYC. IoT everywhere.

Smart homes connect everything to the Internet so they can be accessed by a homeowner anywhere. Smart Neighborhoods might provide local traffic information, pet control, and communications delivered by community-run businesses or non-profits, not city-wide bureaucracies or distant corporations. Owners of public buildings such as hotels, malls and condominiums can benefit from these new LTE revenue streams.

Portland’s Moovel enables bike and car sharing on an as needed basis, reducing congestion. Other Smart City Apps might include:

  • Sustainability: energy saving e.g. smart lighting, energy usage monitoring
  • Security: water and air monitoring, facial recognition, geofencing, smart locks, fire and smoke detection
  • Resource Sharing: bikes, boats, cars, tools, supplies
  • People and pets: dialogue and engagement, pet tracking
  • Efficiency: asset monitoring and maintenance

When LTE is used over WiFi bands, it can be more reliable than ordinary WiFi connections.

Both Multifire and License Assisted Access (LAA) use LTE over “free” WiFi spectrum to send and receive calls or provide internet access. But carrier-controlled LAA requires you to be a cellular subscriber. MultiFire doesn’t.

Multifire can be used by any small business or individual. No license required. Phones that use the MulteFire standard can also seamlessly roam to regular licensed cellular carriers when a user leaves the building or the local MulteFire service area.

MulteFire works on unlicensed spectrum, like 5 GHz or 3.5 GHz. It doesn’t need the involvement of any cellular operator if you want to provide LTE service in a neighborhood or inside a building.

Comcast will test 3.5 GHz within a 4 mile (7km) radius, the company said in its FCC application, apparently using Huawei gear. Nokia launched their MulteFire small cell this year.

Multefire LTE radio networks can be established by any private businesses or neighborhood. It’s like a WiFi network…with better range, mobility, and reliability. That’s a fact.

If Comcast builds a similar 3.5 GHz system (and it appears they may), Comcast’s system will be built on carrier-controlled LAA, which will require you to also subscribe to Comcast’s cable and internet service. By contrast, a neighborhood Multefire system can break the monopoly on high speed internet, mobile data, and streaming video services.

Smart Neighborhoods don’t need Comcast. That’s the point.

NarrowBand IOT (NB-IOT) uses a much smaller slice of cellular frequencies. Now it’s being extended into the unlicensed (3.5 GHz and 5 GHz) bands, so communities, private businesses and individuals can utilize this inexpensive sensor connectivity service as well.

MulteFire is an LTE-based technology that doesn’t depend on carriers for control of the network. Communities can control their own destiny.

The 3.5 GHz Band, also called the Citizens Broadband Radio Service, is similar to WiFi. Some 80 MHz is available (free) to everyone, with some 70 MHz is available to anyone who wants to buy a license.

Look for devices that support Band 48, the 3550-3700 MHz (CBRS) band, while Band 46 is TD-LTE operating in the 5150 – 5925 MHZ (WiFi) band. Yes, you’ll need to buy a new phone or get a mobile router which will pick up 3.5 GHz and deliver WiFi throughout your residence. They’ll be available later this year. Qualcomm’s X-20 modem, now embedded in the Snapdragon 845 processor, provides handset support for CBRS as does their newer X-24 chip.

General Authorized Access (GAA) is free, but requires spectrum coordination for a small fee, resulting in higher reliability and less interference than uncontrolled WiFi. Priority Access (PAL) lets you buy a license for more dependability and control. The 3.5 GHz band uses LTE protocols, but radios are expected to be relatively cheap. Some phones are expected to have it this year.

Massive MIMO antennas allow 10+ dynamic beams, each delivering 1 Gbps capacity.

Communities might offer wireless services themselves or let a third party provide it. Cloud Native Computing runs both the cellular electronics and Federated’s frequency management using containerized nodes running on generic servers at Amazon’s AWS or Google’s datacenters. That eliminates electronics at the tower and cellular costs. 5G runs on the cloud.

“Wireless Fiber” could deliver broadband faster and cheaper. CBRS can replace expensive last-mile fiber with inexpensive Gigabit LTE. Wireless broadband. You can seamlessly roam to traditional cellular service outside the neighborhood “bubble” – similar to some WiFi services offered today.

Community services might include:

Cheap wireless broadband. Like WiFi. Free spectrum.
Gigabit Wireless. Faster LTE, more spectrum, fewer caps.
Shared. One radio, with spectrum shared by different ISPs.
LTE Broadcast. Multicast marine radio or tv on your phone.
Voice over LTE. Cheaper, better voice.
Push-to-talk. For first responders.
Over the top TV packages. Netflix, SlingTV and DirectTV
Inexpensive Sensor connections. For new businesses.
Affordable bike, boat, or pet tracking.
No truck roll. Lower operating costs.

Do It Yourself LTE

Neighborhood associations could put 4-5 CBRS radios on public infrastructure they own or control. Let’s say the transmitters are $5K a pop and premises equipment ranges from your phone to a $200 hotspot. Commercial carriers could compete with each other for access to the “community radio” run by a neutral host. The radio is shared. Businesses could “lease” a subchannel. Neighborhoods could determine service tiers and compete with commercial providers. Neighborhood Public Radio.

Network slicing allows different service providers and enterprises, including small ones, to use a virtualized, on-demand ‘slice’ of the network. Fixed Wireless Access and Mobile Broad Band. Licensed and Unlicensed. Everyone benefits. It’s lower risk because CBRS radios are lower cost, similar to an enterprise WiFi hotspot. Infrastructure costs, such as the radio, backhaul and rooftop lease, can be split for mutual benefit. The neutral host (perhaps a non-profit) provides equitable management and access.

Let’s say 3.5 Ghz can deliver 10-100 Mbps around a one mile radius, and we manage to get 100 subscribers around each tower. Hayden Island might be (mostly) covered using only four antennas, two on the eastside and two on the westside. On the East end of the island, one might be mounted on the roof of Columbia Crossing and one on the Oxford Suites roof, Home Depot and NW Rugs might cover the West end of the island.

Each antenna would be fed with Gigabit fiber, perhaps from Comcast for $500/month. If 500 subscribers paid an average of $20/month, that’s $10K/month or $120K/year. Could Community Broadband pay for itself while dramatically lowering user costs? It appears likely.

An open source LTE small cell can be backhauled on a Comcast 1 Gbps, DOCSIS 3.1 modem and a Cisco router.

But would Comcast or Century Link EVER provide cost/effective fiber connections to a potential competitor? Probably not. They’ll jack the price up, just like fiber providers do today at cell towers. They charge competitors just below the cost of stringing new fiber, making service expensive.

In addition, tower companies like Crown Castle charge up to $2,000 per month for access to their towers. It’s the main reason some 750 Communities Now Have Some Form of Community Broadband.

Perhaps TriMet could utilize their fiber backbone along their Max tracks. It’s already strung and operating. The Portland Bureau of Transportation and Nike sponsor Biketown bike rental stations. But in Vancouver BC, free WiFi is available city-wide at all of their 600 bike share stations.

Biketown might do the same. First expanding their bikeshare program into North Portland, then providing bike stations with free WiFi. Revenue-producing, inexpensive LTE broadband could also be provided for the community from these stations, perhaps operated by community non-profit. Public infrastructure could be traded for free bandwidth. Lowering costs. Benefiting everyone.

1. Gigabit LTE without carriers is happening. It’s similar to WiFi. Free spectrum.
2. It will deliver 10X the speed of current LTE.
3. It will cost far less. Spectrum is free and radios are shared.

It may make economic sense. Gigabit Wireless in Oregon should be investigated. Maybe it’s viable. Maybe it’s not. The Citizens Band Radio Service Alliance and Mobile World Congress have the latest news.

All the pieces will be in place by 2019. Plan on it. What would you do with a $2/month tracking tag or truly unlimited 100 Mbps wireless for $20/month?

Don’t wait for Smart Cities. The revolution of fast, cheap broadband starts at home. It will not be televised.