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Telcos and smart cities: Are we talking the same language?

Can cities and telecommunications providers be the smart city power couple or will cities prefer to play the field?


The numbers about the value of the smart city market vary according to who you ask – but across the board, they’re big with estimates from $135 billion by 2022 to $2 trillion by 2025.


And, of course, we can’t forget that driving this ‘market’ are some very pressing human challenges – overcrowding, climate change, noise pollution, congestion etc.


Cities need the right private sector partners to help them tackle these issues and almost everyone agrees we need to go faster to move beyond the hype about smart cities and see change in the real world.


Telecommunications service providers are an essential part of the ecosystem that will bring smart cities to life, and their trusted status and underlying capabilities make them ideal partners for cities.


Smart cities offer a huge opportunity for telcos to tap new revenue streams at a time when they are much-needed as traditional revenues from voice and messaging are flatlining.


Only a small percentage of the predicted smart city value will come from city communication networks.


However, estimates suggest that only a small percentage of this predicted smart city value will come from city communication networks. For telcos to take a bigger slice of the pie and give cities more of what they require, they’ll need to offer more than just connectivity.


Beyond the dumb pipe


Some of the growing and emerging roles beyond the ‘dumb pipe’ connectivity provider include: ’smart pipes’ – offering premium and tailored connectivity services via 5G network slicing, for example; non-connectivity services – e.g. offering analytics, applications, security and other end-to-end capabilities, both to cities directly and to various verticals within the smart city; or aggregator – a lead partner for the city with an ecosystem of specialist companies they can bring along.


The questions are, though: are cities looking to operators beyond connectivity – do they know what’s on offer? Are these very different public and private entities moving at the same speed? Do the financials stack up on both sides?


As part of our new research, in association with our sister publication Mobile Europe & European Communications, we are looking to understand more about what cities need from partners such as telecom operators, and vice versa – and whether they’re currently getting it.


Finding a way ahead


We plan to use our findings to help identify ways ahead to solve collective challenges. As well as sharing the data, we will feature examples of success and takeaways from partnerships so far, and highlight future opportunities for further and more fruitful collaboration.


We want to know:

  • What are the main opportunities for cities, operators and the wider telecom ecosystem in working together to deliver smarter cities?
  • What are the challenges to making this a reality? Technology, culture or cold, hard cash?
  • What do cities need from smart partners such as telco operators that they’re not getting?
  • What services can operators and other partners offer? What are the different roles they can play in the smart city?
  • How successful have partnerships been so far? What can be learned from this for the future?
  • Do the financials of smart cities stack up for cities, operators and the wider stakeholders? How might this evolve?

If you’re a representative from a city, operator or vendor in this space, please take a few moments to fill out the survey are share your insights.



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