Leadership on 5G Puts Us Ahead Of The Pace of Change

Next week at City Council, I’ll be making a motion to explore what 5G implementation would mean for Edmonton. For many, that will mean very little, but the effect it could have on Edmonton’s growth, climate resiliency, and innovation is astronomical – it allows us to be ahead of the pace of change rather than simply chasing behind- here’s why.

What is 5G?

For the uninitiated, 5G refers to the fifth generation of cellular technology and is considered the next big step in the digital revolution. 5G extends beyond 4G’s capabilities, offering virtually endless possibilities in advancements and innovation.

At its core, 5G greatly increases download speeds and reduces reaction time. In fact, 5G works at speeds at least 20 times faster than 4G. Quicker download speeds don’t just mean you can watch Netflix without buffering – it also means faster and more comprehensive technology for city operations, sensors that can prevent damaging climate events, and development of the internet of things at a capacity we’ve never seen before.

5G technology requires the use of traditional cell towers and a web of smaller cell boxes, and so governments have a key role to play. Without the necessary infrastructure investments, 5G is simply impossible.

Endless Possibilities

In its simplest form, 5G will serve security systems, thermostats, “always-on” devices and beyond. 5G will enable greater development in the internet of things, which is currently limited by 4G’s lower capacity, connectivity, and speed. The positive effects of developing this technology will be felt across sectors, both public and private.

But beyond these simpler uses, this technology will be the backbone of Edmonton’s bid to become a smart city. A smart city requires thousands of sensors and wireless systems which only 5G technology can efficiently provide. 5G checks every box for the city; it will make us more effective in service delivery, increase the number of good jobs, and support sustainability.

5G would give us the ability to monitor our technology and operations as a city in real-time and make improvements as necessary. Fleet location, optimizing bus and snow clearing routes, dramatically improving sewage system monitoring, and enhancing police officer safety are just some of the ways 5G tech would improve the City’s services.

On top of that, 5G is key in preventing damage caused by climate change. Small, low-cost sensors could be used to predict urban forest wildfires by being able to detect high-risk zones and early signs of a wildfire. 5G sensors would also be able to track river valley water levels, not to mention water levels in other areas of the city, like dry ponds, to prevent flooding – saving the City and Edmontonians countless dollars and irreparable damage to our environment and beloved amenities. It would also allow us to track air quality, study traffic patterns, conduct environmental monitoring, track energy usage, and supervise our water management systems for quality and potential leakages.

5G can make us a safer, smarter city.

5G Across the Globe

5G development is already underway in North American cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, and San Diego, with more to come. Just this year Bahrain signed an agreement with Ericsson to launch 5G across the city. In Wuxi, China, the 5G industry is already well developed with some 2000 companies invested in 5G technology, totalling $29 billion in revenue with 150,000 well-paid and long-term employees.

Edmonton has the potential to become a leader in 5G. With our emerging artificial intelligence and technology sectors, we are well placed to become early adopters and beneficiaries of 5G. However, this potential will be limited without public leadership.

Developing 5G in Our City

Right now our Smart City Strategy includes no mention of a 5G strategy. This has to change if we are to take advantage of the technology’s potential and hit the ground running once it becomes feasible for our city. To this end, I’m making this motion at Council next week:

Can Administration in collaboration with Edmonton Global and EEDC provide a report on the following:

  1. What would it take for the city of Edmonton to be a leader in the adoption of 5G technology?
  2. How can the City of Edmonton collaborate with large mobile carriers and what can we initiate on our own to expedite installation of 5G infrastructure?
  3. What are the benefits to the City of Edmonton in terms of being recognized as a smart city and in helping to advance other related city goals such as a healthy city, a Climate Resilient city and our Smart Transportation Strategy?
  4. What is the range of investment attraction opportunities that would emerge if the Edmonton Metro region was a leader in the provision of 5G technology?
  5. Consult U of A and NAIT to assist in answering the above questions.
  6. Recently the City of Turin Italy hosted an EXPO on 5G innovations. Is there any possibility of Edmonton hosting a similar event?

5G will not only open the door for technological innovation in the future, but it will also improve how we use existing technology. A comprehensive strategy will allow us to get to work right away on making Edmonton 5G ready and invite proposals from mobile carriers to select which one(s) works best for Edmonton. Taking advantage of this technology’s immense potential for the public good and private sector investment requires action from public leaders. I’m looking forward to Council on Tuesday, and what it could mean for Edmonton’s future.

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