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.

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, it will encompass the downtown area, the University of Utah campus, and a residential neighborhood.

Powder will deploy more than 400 radios across its coverage area in a variety of forms. COSMOS is partnering with Silicon Harlem, City College of New York, University of Arizona and IBM, to bring an advanced wireless testbed to New York City.

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.

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.

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.

“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 assigns Cellular Market Areas since the inception of cellular licenses in 1982. For paid (PAL) CBRS licenses (70 MHz available), the FCC may use either the much smaller Census Tracts map (above), preferred by WISPs, or the much larger Partial Economic Areas, that cellular operators want.

Less channel reuse will be available using the larger Partial Economic Areas (PEAs), so fewer channels will be vacant for potential “free” operations. GE, WISPs and others would like to use smaller Census Tracts so they could deliver smaller, private TDD-LTE networks, rather than having to rely solely on wireless carriers’ licensed spectrum and services.

In Pai’s FCC, cellular operators will probably get what they want, which means only two PEAs would be required to cover most of Oregon’s population. Transmitters can deploy 1 watt radios (30db) into 17db antenna for a maximum gain of 47 dBm/10 MHz, which should deliver wireless broadband from 1-5 miles.

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, T-Mobile and Cable Operators are in.

Unfortunately, Comcast and the cellular carriers plan to use the “free” public spectrum using the 80 MHz available on the unlicensed segment of CBRS using the License Assisted Access (LAA) standard that WILL REQUIRE users to subscribe to their existing network. They 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.

Huawei’s 5G consumer terminal is empowering a billion people in China and India with Gigabit wireless to the home on 3.5GHz. Multiple cellular operators can buy 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.

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 month or more.

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 massive MIMO works on 3.5 GHz as well. 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? nVidia’s Volta chip running on AWS and Microsoft Azure 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.

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 Comcast 1 Gbps, DOCSIS 3.1 modem and a Cisco router could be a cheaper option.

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.

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.

NEXT: Free Wi-Fi

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