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November 7, 2015

LA’s new streetlamps come with built-in wireless broadband

If you live in Los Angeles and you want to make sure you get a good wireless Internet signal, you might want to stand next to a streetlamp, as the California metropolis has become the first city on the planet to install streetlamp poles with built in 4G LTE technology.

According to Gizmodo and Tech Times, LA recently installed 100 Phillips SmartPoles, which are innocent-looking gray streetlamps that just happen to be outfitted with 4G LTE wireless tech from Ericsson. Each pole is connected to a broadband network through a fiber link, which allows it to maintain a persistent connection, even after a natural disaster such as an earthquake.

The SmartPoles are smaller and purportedly provide better connectivity than large traditional cell towers, and they also come equipped with energy-efficient LED bulbs. Furthermore, because the lights are placed close to streets and sidewalks, the network is more equally dispersed throughout the city, allowing people to have more connectivity in the areas where they actually use their phones.

“The analog light pole has evolved right here in Los Angeles,” mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. He added that the city was “taking advantage of previously untapped real estate to give our streets better broadband connectivity and future-ready infrastructure, while generating revenue for the city.”

Decentralized nodes more likely to remain operative during earthquakes

The SmartPoles’ LED street lighting is capable of generating energy savings of 50 to 70 percent, and more when paired with smart controls, Phillips said. The instillation of the new lamps is the second upgrade the city has received by the electronics company this year, as the rest of the city lights are in the process of being upgraded to a wirelessly-controlled system.

Arun Bansal, Senior VP and Head of Business Unit Radio of Ericsson, said that LA would be “a role model for other smart cities that place sustainability and connectivity high on their agenda,” while Amy Huntington, President of Philips Lighting Americas, said it “proves its role as the backbone in an outdoor Internet of Things platform” by converting LED street lighting “into a services hub that can adapt to the changing needs of a particular neighborhood over time.”

Also, since the towers are decentralized, a power outage (perhaps one cause by an earthquake) would likely effect a smaller coverage area, as more nodes are likely to be unaffected, Gizmodo explained. “This increased reliability for the wireless network is especially important in the event of emergencies – so that smartphones stay online when they are needed most,” Peter Marx, Chief Technology Officer for the city of LA, wrote in a blog post Friday.

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Image credit: City of LA/Gizmodo