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A smart case study for mmWave: Connecting Rzeszów

The City of Rzeszów in Poland has created a blueprint for how mmWave can be leveraged to deliver 5G networks and their benefits to municipalities across the world.

Dr John Naylon, CBNL
Dr John Naylon, CBNL

As with 3G and 4G that came before it, much of the anticipation of 5G surrounds its numerous advanced mobile applications. However, for the first time, 5G could also transform Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) – a term that refers to the connection of two or more fixed locations (such as buildings) using a wireless network. Differing from a 5G mobile network in that the endpoints don’t move, 5G FWA is touted to deliver throughput, latency and reliability equivalent to fibre, at a lower cost. With such an attractive proposition, it’s no surprise that the use cases for 5G FWA are endless.


For urban centres, 5G represents a sea change, with applications that go far beyond mobile. 5G will make it possible to connect entire networks of fixed locations and systems with previously unattainable performance. Crucially, these efficient, agile networks will deliver the ubiquitous connectivity needed to underpin a vast ecosystem of connected services – in essence, a smart city.


For the first time, 5G could transform Fixed Wireless Access (FWA).


Often mentioned in the same breath as 5G FWA, millimetre wave (mmWave) spectrum – defined as the band of radio spectrum above 24GHz – is garnering similar levels of speculation for its ability to support the capacities needed for 5G. Whilst this could be dismissed as more 5G hyperbole, there are ample proof points to show that mmWave is already being leveraged to underpin smart city networks. In Europe, the 26GHz frequency band has been labelled one of the ‘pioneer bands’ for 5G across both mobile and fixed wireless use cases by the European Union.


Why does this matter? It’s important because smart city living demands a higher standard of connectivity and a truly robust underlying network infrastructure in order to support the complexity of the interconnecting services. As such, the high speeds and low latencies of 5G networks provide an appealing connectivity solution, offering the gigabit per second throughputs to meet the demands on city resources.


Point-to-multipoint (PMP) networks can be built in the mmWave spectrum bands. This enables innovative city authorities to implement flexible high-capacity connectivity solutions that can quickly and effectively scale to meet the changing demands of their fast-growing, modern urban environment.


This is a vision that has already been realised in the city of Rzeszów, Poland.


Futureproofing urban connectivity

Rzeszów, a city with a population of 187,000, is the largest economic, academic and cultural city in the South East of Poland. As such, the city needs a smart and flexible network solution to provide connectivity to its businesses and inhabitants. By deploying a unified smart point-to-multipoint (PMP) mmWave network the city authority is now able provide services to local residents and government agencies, from broadband internet, to municipal security and traffic optimisation via a citywide umbrella network.


The UN predicts that by 2050, urban areas will house 68 per cent of the global population. This rising urbanisation only compounds population demands and puts strain on resources and infrastructure. The situation in Rzeszów was no different. However, together with the European Union and project partners, VSAT and CBNL, the city leveraged an agile PMP mmWave solution to allow for more efficient orchestration of its network resources and greater flexibility to deliver a range of services over a single, common physical network.


Crucially, other authorities can learn from this. Leveraging a flexible wireless solution enables municipal authorities, local governments and city planners to support critical services their cities need, and quickly scale to meet the changing demands of the population it sustains both now and in the future.


Leveraging a flexible wireless solution enables municipal authorities, local governments and city planners to support critical services their cities need, and quickly scale.


Networks that work harder


PMP network architecture has long been heralded for its cost-efficiencies and scalability compared to point-to-point (PTP) solutions, but until recently it was technically difficult to deploy these networks in high-frequency spectrum bands. Due to recent breakthroughs, PMP solutions in the mmWave bands are now possible making the development of smart city architecture commercially viable in the designated 5G spectrum bands.


5G FWA has the ability to deliver unprecedented levels of coverage at a lower cost than PTP and fibre approaches. This was a key driver of its adoption in Rzeszów, which was the first city in the world to take best practice from licensed PMP from the mobile industry and apply it to a municipal network.


Rzeszów was the first city in the world to take best practice from licensed PMP from the mobile industry and apply it to a municipal network.


The network in Rzeszów consists of 26GHz hub sites – offering 2.4Gbps network capacity – across 17 points-of-presence in the city, each equipped to provide 360-degree coverage between a three and five-mile radius. This infrastructure has enabled broadband speeds up to 200 times faster than previously available across municipal institutions like schools, colleges, city administration offices and cultural centres.


Additionally, 500 free Wi-Fi hotspots were also located across all of the city’s residential, commercial, educational and tourist areas, helping to facilitate modern learning practices, and further bolster local businesses, whilst building a thriving tourist industry.


Enabling intelligent transport


Perhaps most significantly, the network was able to facilitate the implementation of an intelligent transport system. Operating within its Municipal Telecommunications Network, the system connects traffic lights, information displays at bus stops, digital message signs and vehicle weight control points. As a result of the increased efficiency of the interconnected network, the city has seen travel time reduce by up to six minutes and a reduction of vehicle stoppage times by 26 per cent.


The city’s unique network allows for all of these smart city services to be delivered over the same underlying physical infrastructure in the form of a small antenna at each location. Despite this, the individual services – intelligent transport system, broadband internet, traffic optimisation, etc. – can be treated as though they were on separate, virtual, networks. The advantage here for smart city deployment is having a network able to carry all sorts of traffic, regardless of the communications protocol being used, so that seamless, integrated city-wide connectivity and communications is possible.

The benefits afforded to Rzeszów’s citizens, its local economy and the environment, speak for themselves. Advanced use of PMP technology and 26GHz spectrum has not only driven significant socio-economic and environmental benefits, but it has done so whilst simultaneously reducing the city’s telecommunications costs by 60 per cent.

Unlocking the power of mmWave


As we have seen, technology breakthroughs have allowed PMP to be deployed in mmWave spectrum bands for the first time.


For Rzeszów, the ability to leverage 26GHz frequency to connect multiple locations and services has enabled the city to establish digital coverage on a scale not commercially viable with other approaches. Critically, this has facilitated the provision of a ubiquitous layer of robust wireless connectivity to support the city’s concentrated ecosystem of services.


The characteristics of mmWave make delivering over a gigabit per second to a user both a technical and commercial reality. This lowers the barriers to entry for wide scale adoption of the technology and creates an attractive business case for any forward-thinking smart city stakeholders.


The network architecture used in Rzeszów has created a blueprint for how mmWave can be leveraged to deliver 5G networks to cities across world. While Rzeszów is one of the first city’s leading the way with mmWave, it will certainly not be the last to adopt this approach.


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