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Telcos and cities: the importance of speaking the same language

Ahead of his participation in the Smart IoT Connect event, Tom Gardner of CKH Innovations Opportunities Development, urges cities and telcos to forge a closer relationship.


Tom Gardner, Head of IoT and MVNO at CKH Innovations Opportunities Development, is talking at the Smart IoT Connect event on 10 September (a joint event between SmartCitiesWorld and sister publication, Mobile Europe), on the evolving smart city ecosystem. Ahead of his participation in the event, he urges cities and telcos to forge a closer relationship to foster more open conversations.


SCW: Do cities have a good understanding of what operators can offer beyond connectivity?

It comes down to how close the existing relationship with a city and a mobile operator is. Some cities will work closely with operators on fixed line services and various cloud, mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, however, there are other cities who just consider mobile solutions. The closer the relationship and the more open the conversation, the greater the chance there is for operators to upsell.


For example, a city may want to connect their streetlights to save costs and reduce their carbon footprint, but from that same point of connection, the city could also operate CCTV cameras, detect distress/crime sounds, operate wi-fi hotspots, take temperature readings and measure volumes of people/traffic in specific areas.

SCW: What do operators need from cities that they aren’t getting now?

More flexibility and openness. City procurement can occasionally be a slow and bureaucratic process, which doesn’t always lend itself to achieving the most forward thinking, innovative solution. Operators can often deliver much more value and innovation if cities were more open with their selection criteria and more flexible with their requirements.

SCW: Where do the revenue opportunities lie in smart cities for operators and how will 5G change this?

5G enables mobile operators to challenge the fixed connectivity market with Fixed Wireless Access, delivering faster-than-broadband speeds without a physical cable. The very low latency of 5G brings significant opportunities for operators and cities. 5G offers lightning-fast speeds that can support critical alarm systems, for example, earthquake detection, and enable cutting-edge advances in vehicle-to-vehicle communication and autonomous driving.

Network slicing with 5G also offers great potential. Operators can provide cities with a dedicated slice of the network. This is a huge benefit to overcrowded cities with congested network infrastructure. A dedicated city network slice guarantees connectivity for the city’s own purposes. What we’re seeing with 5G is it enables a greater flow of data, and with that comes greater data monetisation and insight opportunities.

SCW: Who should/will operators be collaborating with in smart city ecosystems?

Organisations who know how to sell to cities and have been doing so for years. Operators need to look at what cities typically buy: streetlights, traffic systems, public transport and waste management, and they need to connect with the organisations offering these services.

SCW: Do operators have to reinvent themselves for the digital economy and to serve new markets such as smart cities?

They certainly have to understand what language cities are talking and make themselves more open and approachable. This also means adapting their marketing and communications accordingly. If they use the same language they’ve used in the mobile phone world they will limit their opportunities. They have to avoid jargon and understand what is important to cities.


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