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 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.

Any OnGo certified product will work in the 3.5 GHz band.

Salt Lake City received a $4.3 million NSF grant to create a city-scale 3.5 GHz network using a highly programmable (MIMO) platform over a 10 km² area of the city, called, which will deploy more than 400 radios across its coverage area.

Every NFL Stadium in the United States will have Citizen’s Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). The City and County of San Francisco is testing an LTE system in the CBRS band for wireless cameras, IoT and SCADA systems on Pier 45. Cosmos will bring an advanced wireless testbed to New York City.

Ericsson’s 2208 CBRS radio is ready to go. Federated Wireless recently wrapped up a $42 million “B” round that included participation from two big names from the cable industry — Charter Communications and Arris, which is in the process of acquiring Ruckus Wireless.

Gigabit wireless networks, using spectrum on the 3.5 GHz band, are not just possible. They’re available. Broadband or Narrowband. One radio can be shared by competing service providers. Faster. Cheaper.

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.

LTE-Advanced Pro (release 14) was approved by the 3GPP in October 2015, following LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) and LTE before it. The first official 5G standard (release 15) was completed in June 2018, but is not expected to be operational in the field until late 2019-2020. LTE Advanced Pro is now operational by some carriers (who erroneously call it “5G”) when it supports LAA on the unlicensed Wifi and shared 3.5 GHz bands.

But you don’t need to be a carrier…or need dedicated spectrum…to use MuLTEfire – it just works anywhere you set it up…like WiFi.

AT&T SmartCities, Verizon’s Thingspace, Sprint’s SmartCities and T-Mobile’s IoT may work better as infrastructure silos, then for user-centric services.

We are an island. It’s easy to define the boundaries in a small pilot project. New York City’s Governors Island has become a testing ground to deploy 5G wireless. Florida is testing 3.5 GHz as well. Phones with support for 3.5GHz CBRS are expected later in 2018.

Swiftmile uses solar-powered eBike hubs that a rider can locate and rent a bike through the Swiftapp. No power grid necessary.

For free Wifi in their bike sharing hubs, Vancouver BC uses Tanaza cloud management to control and monitor hundreds of “free” WiFi hotspots. The Tanaza firmware is flashed onto commodity hotspots like Ubiquiti and Portland-based Open Mesh. It enables remote management of wireless settings, customized splash screens, authentication and operation from a simple dashboard.

For LTE backhaul, a 501C can provide truly unlimited LTE data plans for $15/month. But a CBRS (3.5 GHz) multi-point backhaul to dozens of hotspots would likely be faster and cheaper. Fiber to the Bike Hub could be the ultimate neighborhood solution.

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, is North America’s largest example of a “smart city”.

Sidewalk’s initial ideas – in a 220-page document – represents significant innovation in architecture and urban design.

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

Dish Network uses NB-IOT in the 600 & 700 Mhz band. But smart cities don’t have to surrender their community lampposts to AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, Comcast and Dish Networks, using old-timey cellular technology in closed-off and duplicated infrastructure silos.

Comcast has 25 million broadband customers and wants to retain its 22.5 million TV subscribers by tieing them together.

“Wireless Fiber” delivers broadband faster and cheaper. CBRS replaces expensive last-mile fiber with inexpensive Gigabit LTE. Wireless fiber.

Want cable-like services for $20-$30/month? Get a broadband package with streaming channels. DirecTV Now, SlingBox, Hulu, Sony Vue and YouTubeTV now deliver dozens of live streaming channels. Supplement it with Netflix and Amazon.

More variety. Lower cost. Streaming television or on-demand.

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.
Local News with targeted ads.
No truck roll. Lower operating costs.

The FCC has assigned Cellular Market Areas since the inception of cellular licenses in 1982. For paid (PAL) CBRS licenses (70 MHz available), the FCC is being pressured to dump the smaller Census Tracts coverage maps (below), for much larger coverage rights using Partial Economic Areas, that cellular operators want.

General Electric (streetlights), ports like the Port of Portland, Wireless ISPs, consumers and others would like to use smaller Census Tracts (above) so they could deliver smaller, private TDD-LTE networks, rather than having to rely solely on wireless carriers’ licensed spectrum and services. The larger Partial Economic Areas (PEAs), that carriers want, would entitle them to nearly blanket coverage so fewer channels will be available for “free” operations.

The Partial Economic Area for Oregon is dominated by Area #19 – which covers 3 million people. Consequently, all four carriers would likely grab all the shared (3.5 GHz) spectrum available in this vast area. GE expects to bid on census-tract licenses but NOT on larger tracks (like #19) where cellular monopolies plan to dominate.

South Korea auctioned off ALL their 3.5 GHz spectrum with KT getting 100MHz and the smallest carrier, LG U+, with the remaining 80MHz.

In Pai’s FCC, cellular operators may get what they want, which means carriers could cover most of Oregon’s population with four, 20 MHz licenses, and taking out most ALL of the 70 MHZ (licensed) spectrum, IN ADDITION to leaving consumers with next to NOTHING in the 80 MHz allotted for “free” (shared) use on the 3.5 GHz band. Carriers will call it “5G service”, but it’s not. It’s a dis-service.

License Assisted Access: Bad
When LTE is used over WiFi bands, it can be more reliable than ordinary WiFi connections. The 3.5 GHz band is professional-grade…and “free”. The 3.5 GHz wireless standards are done. They’re ready to go.

What carriers will likely use 3.5 GHz? AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and Cable Operators are in. They’ll call it “5G” but it’s just LTE using 50 Mhz or so of the CBRS band in addition to their licensed cellular channels. For cellular operators this has the added benefit of using up most of the “free” spectrum.

Their License Assisted Access (LAA) standard WILL REQUIRE users to subscribe to their existing network.

Carriers want to control access to “free” spectrum…not encourage it.

Multefire: Good
License Assisted Access (LAA) and Multefire are the two main technologies that use LTE over “free” spectrum. Carrier-controlled LAA requires you to be a cellular subscriber. MulteFire does not.

Multefire 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.

T-Mobile expects to deploy 25,000 small cells with LAA on light poles and inside building. Other carriers may do the same.

Does anybody really want duplicated wireless towers sprouting exclusive service silos from different neighborhood light poles? It’s expensive and wasteful. The solution is shared Multefire radios on the unlicensed 3.5GHz (CBRS) band. Shared spectrum. Shared radios.

With MuLTEfire, multiple cellular operators can buy separate licensed channels on 3.5 GHz and share ONE radio. Everybody wins. Cost is shared. Duplication eliminated.

MulteFire works on unlicensed spectrum, like 5 GHz or 3.5 GHz. It doesn’t require the involvement of a cellular operator, but it allows licensed mobile operators to share the radio (and expense) if they desire. It’s a triple play: voice, Gigabit LTE and IoT.

Comcast will test 3.5 GHz within a 4 mile (7km) radius, the company said in its FCC application. T-Mobile is also testing 3.5 GHz with a 4 mile radius of operation. Nokia launched their MulteFire small cell this year. The Ruckus Q910, a 3.5 GHz outdoor small cell, covers a city block.

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 and T-Mobile build competing 3.5 GHz systems (and it appears they may), they will be built on carrier-controlled LAA, which will require you to also subscribe to Comcast’s cable or have a T-Mobile plan. By contrast, a neighborhood Multefire system can break the monopoly on high speed internet, mobile data, and streaming video services. Twice the speed. Half the cost.

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

Internet of Things: Potential New Revenue Stream
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.

Right now the path forward is IoT with MulteFire 1.1 which uses either a 200 KHz or 1.4 MHz bandwidth. If a bike’s GPS tracker, for example, uses 1/10th the cellular spectrum it provides better range using MUCH less power. Small batteries can last a year.

Narrowband IOT is more appropriate technology for many sensor monitoring and tracking applications since it provides longer battery life and lower cost than AT&T’s favored CAT-M1 approach.

3.5 GHz: Simple. Cheap.
MulteFire lets communities 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 70 MHz is available to anyone who wants to buy a license.

“It’s kind of cheating, CBRS,” says Oren Binder, LTE marketing director at Ruckus, “because we’re getting this free spectrum that other operators have been paying billions for, and all of a sudden this is falling out from the sky.”

Look for devices that support Band 48, the 3550-3700 MHz (CBRS) band. Samsung and Apple already support CBRS. Meanwhile, 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. Fixed wireless providers typically only need 5% market share in a given market to be profitable, compared with up to 40% for a typical cable operator.

Qualcomm’s X50 5G modem supports 5G on Sprint’s 2.5 GHz band, which is now being upgraded. The same TD-LTE/MIMO technology on 2.5GHz is the same Time Division LTE technology that will be used over the 3.5 GHz band. Rise Broadband is the country’s largest fixed wireless provider with around 200,000 customers using both 3.65 GHz and 2.5 GHz.

Communities might offer wireless services themselves or let a third party provide it. 5G runs on the cloud. 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. The Ruckus cloud-base 3.5 GHz system is sold as a subscription service, bundled or a la carte.

Need image recognition with AI? Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft Azure using nVidia’s Volta chip or Google’s TensorFlow Cloud chips will deliver.

Do It Yourself LTE

Neighborhood associations could put 1-3 CBRS radios on public infrastructure they own or control. Let’s say the transmitters are $5K a pop and premises equipment ranges from $0 (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 and nobody has their thumb on the scale. Private businesses or carriers could “lease” a subchannel, much like they do for WiFi connectivity at a stadium. Unhappy with your current ISP? Switch it…in seconds. Now THAT’S competition!

Neighborhoods could contract out services and set service tiers. Provide local journalism with targeted advertising. Need a solution to the advertising decimation caused by Craig’s List or Facebook? There it is. Under your nose.

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 two mile radius, and we manage to get 100 subscribers around each tower.

Hayden Island might be (mostly) covered using only a couple of antennas. On the East end of the island, might be mounted on the roof of Columbia Crossing or Oxford Suites, while Westside coverage might be enabled by rooftop mounting on Home Depot or NW Rugs. That would also provide clear shot coverage of Waterfront Vancouver with a potential of 10,000 broadband subscribers.

Could Community Broadband pay for itself while dramatically lowering user costs? Yes.

If we got just 10% penetration from a potential clientele base of 5000 people, and those 500 subscribers paid an average of just $20/month, that’s $10K/month or $120K/year. Streaming cable channels are available with a $35 package from Hulu, Dish, DirectTV or Youtube. Easily HALF the price of ANY option. Each antenna would be fed with Gigabit fiber, perhaps from Comcast/CenturyLink for $500/month.

How do you get multi-gigabit backhaul to the tower? Microwave and fiber are typical solutions. A 28GHz microwave link can provide multi-gigabit speeds to the tower, but a 1 Gbps, DOCSIS 3.1 modem could be a more cost/effective option. DOCSIS 3.1 can enable speeds as high as 10 Gbit/s downstream and 2 Gbit/s upstream, while Full Duplex enables symmetrical speeds as high as 10 Gbit/s.

But would Comcast or Century Link EVER provide cost/effective fiber/DOCSIS 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.

What would you do with a $2/month tracking tag or truly unlimited 100 Mbps wireless for $20/month? Plan on it.

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

NEXT: Free Wi-Fi

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