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No Cell Service During The Tournament Of Roses? Not This Year.

By Mike Montgomery

While it may seem premature to talk about New Year’s Day celebrations, the City of Pasadena has been hard at work preparing for the 128th edition of its Tournament of Roses Parade celebration. The iconic parade is a New Year’s Day tradition for Pasadena and the millions who watch on TV in more than 115 countries where the parade is broadcast.

This year’s festivities are expected to bring more than 700,000 spectators to Pasadena. Every year, the influx of people is a boon to the local economy. But, it comes with a set of challenges as the city’s population grows nearly five-fold over a four-day period.

One of the biggest problems affecting parade staff, residents, visitors and first responders is the lack of reliable cellphone service. Those who have has attended the parade can attest to the frustration of their phone appearing to have full service yet not being able to make a call, send a text, or access an app.

The reason for this lack of connectivity is simple: network congestion. Mobile-phone ownership in the U.S. is almost ubiquitous (95% penetration), which means that when 700,000 people flock to an area, nearly 1 million cellphones and other connected devices (e.g., smart watches, fitness trackers, etc.) also flood the area. This influx of devices overwhelms the communications infrastructure, which is why your device may not have a strong connection.

By striking a partnership with communications infrastructure provider Crown Castle, Pasadena officials have created a streamlined permitting process to strategically deploy nearly 30 small-cell nodes along the parade route and in Old Town Pasadena’s commercial district to combat network congestion.

While small cells certainly will help everyone share texts, pictures, videos and more, the biggest benefit of this upgrade is for the first responders working to keep all paradegoers safe. What most people don’t realize is that mobile has become one of the most valuable tools for public safety. You see, 80% of 911 calls today are made from a mobile phone, and Wireless Emergency Alerts have become the default method for first responders to push out important safety information at scale during critical events such as an active-shooter situation or when a child is missing.

These benefits are just the tip of the iceberg. Small cells will also serve as the backbone for the wireless revolution known as 5G.

Let me explain. 5G is the next evolution of today’s 4G network, but in reality, 5G will be a new kind of network that will be able to handle 10,000 times more capacity and provide speeds 20 times faster than 4G. This incredible speed and capacity will not only enhance mobile data speed on our devices, but it also will reduce latency to support new user experiences such as virtual reality and augmented reality.

Further, 5G will serve as the lifeblood for smart communities, where street lights will communicate with traffic lights to accommodate traffic patterns on the fly. It will be the conduit for self-driving cars to talk to one another for safer rides. And, it will even aid doctors in performing robotic surgery from hundreds of miles away.

Pasadena has set itself up to be at the forefront of wireless connectivity today and tomorrow by embracing next-generation communication infrastructure, but unfortunately not all municipalities across Los Angeles County have done the same. Now is the time for others to follow Pasadena’s lead and set the entire region up for the same kind of success.

California’s New Internet Law: Just Another Swing And A Miss

Like other net-neutrality initiatives that came before it, California’s sweeping internet regulation law recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown doesn’t seem likely to solve anything, says Mike Montgomery.

In a new Sacramento Bee op-ed, Montgomery, executive director for CALinnovates, addresses two glaring problems with the law: its legality and its scope. The law as it stands now “will remain mired in court, and taxpayers will bear the expense of defending a law that may not withstand litigation and consumers will continue to lack basic net neutrality protections,” Montgomery contends.

Read the full op-ed here.

5G Networks And Infrastructure: The Prescription For Improving Telemedicine

The Federal Communications Commission’s $100 million “Connected Care Pilot Program” to support virtual healthcare, or “telemedicine,” is a vital program to bring high-quality care to our veteran, low-income, and minority communities, writes Kish Rajan, chief evangelist for CALinnovates. But telemedicine isn’t a viable option without the high-speed wireless connections needed for quality videoconferencing.

The answer to this problem, Rajan says, is upgrading the nation’s wireless infrastructure:

To deal with the demand today and to lay the foundation for the 5G networks of tomorrow that will allow telemedicine to reach its full potential, we must upgrade and densify our communications infrastructure by expeditiously deploying more fiber optic cable and densification devices known as “small cells.”

Read what this entails here.

The Millennial Dilemma: Too Many Smartphones And Not Enough Bandwidth

The Pew Research Center says 100% of Americans age 18 to 29 own a cellphone, with 94% owning a smartphone,” writes CALinnovates’ Mike Montgomery on Modernize California. “A separate survey from Pew found that 89% of smartphone users go online daily, while nearly four out of 10 18- to 29-year-olds go online ‘almost constantly.'”

He continues: “While the increased use of connected technology has certainly made our society more efficient, we are at a tipping point where our networks and infrastructure must be modernized to deal with the massive demand for data.”

Read Montgomery’s proposed solution to this issue here.

The Key To The Future Of Self-Driving Cars: 5G

“Small cell and fiber deployment, much like autonomous vehicle progress, is not happening fast enough,” says CALinnovates’ Mike Montgomery. “The reality is, we will need thousands of small cells connected by thousands of route miles of fiber for our mobile networks to reach their full potential.”

“Prioritizing communications infrastructure buildout now is not only fundamental to speeding the adoption of self-driving cars, but enabling countless innovations that stand to make our communities smarter and safer through the power of 5G.”

Read Montgomery’s full column on Modernize California.

Cities Shouldn’t Wait For 5G To Install Small Cell Antennas

By Mike Montgomery

It’s hard to remember, but a little more than a decade ago flip phones were the height of mobile phone innovation. Texting via a numerical keypad was all the rage and only a handful of mobile devices could even access the internet.

The difference between that time and today is remarkable. Now we do everything on our phones – staying in touch with friends via video chat, keeping up with family on social media, banking and even watching movies. A lot of these advances have come from improved device technology, but many have come from upgrades to the networks that power our devices to make room for the extra data needed to keep us hyper-connected.

For many of us, 4G isn’t the marvel it used to be. Dropped calls, slow downloads and sinking number of bars have become more prevalent as we continue to add more and more devices to our wireless networks. And guess what? Our networks are going to continue to get more crowded – according to projections, in North America alone mobile data traffic will reach 6.4 Exabytes per month by 2021.

The good news is, there is a solution to our capacity problems, and that solution is already underway – upgrade both our network and the infrastructure that powers it. Let’s start with the network upgrade. The next evolution of our mobile networks will be 5G, but in reality 5G will be more of a revolution.

You see, 5G is expected to be 100 times faster and support 100 times the capacity of 4G. The benefits to users are obvious – instantaneous video downloads, fewer dropped calls, zero lag in live video – but 5G will also be a major boost for the U.S. economy. Accenture predicts that 5G will bring with it $500 billion in GDP growth by making smart cities a reality. 5G is the key to faster speeds and more connections points, which will ultimately help cities use less energy through smart grids, limit commute times and traffic fatalities by powering self-driving cars, allow cities to deploy sensors that will instantaneously alert police to things like gunshots, and help make emergency services more efficient.

However, 5G is not available to the public yet and the rollout of the network will take several years, which obviously doesn’t do much for our immediate capacity issue. What will help immediately, and is also an absolute necessity to making 5G a reality, is the modernization of our communications infrastructure.

While we wait for the 5G revolution, cities can begin to reap the immediate 4G boosting benefits of new wireless antennas known as small cells. Small cells are exactly what they sound like, small, low-powered nodes located near the end user that add much needed capacity to existing 4G networks while simultaneously laying the groundwork for 5G – small cells will literally serve as the backbone of 5G networks. Thanks to their size and ability to be camouflaged, small cells can be placed on utility poles, traffic lights, even under the seats in a stadium.

London is already doing this – building out a network of small cells to improve 4G coverage in the city. According to Techradar:

“As the finance capital of Europe, it was seen as unacceptable to have poor mobile coverage thanks to the numerous tall buildings blocking signals. Small cells were identified as the ideal solution.”

London expects to have 400 small cells by March 2019.

The essential point, small cells help bridge the gap between 4G and 5G while improving the customer experience right away. Installing a robust small cell network now is a rare win-win for cities by allowing them to deal with the immediate growth of data traffic – which climbed 238% in the last two years alone – while laying the groundwork for 5G.

Small Cells For The Win: Powerful Connectivity During Major Events is No Longer a Wish List Item — It’s Now a Must

“As anyone who has been to a sporting event, concert, rally or even a large graduation ceremony recently can attest, the absence of even a single bar or two of connectivity can be a frustrating experience,” writes Mike Montgomery of CALinnovates. “Networks quickly get bogged down when thousands of people with thousands of devices compete for the attention of the local communications infrastructure.”

An extreme case in point: the Super Bowl. In 2015, Verizon handled 7 terabytes of data at Super Bowl XLIX. That number reached 11 terabytes two year later.In 2017, that number was up to 11 terabytes.

Simply put, our current infrastructure can’t handle this load. See Montgomery’s piece about the problem and its solution here.

 

Study Shows Consumers Benefit From Free Streaming Data

Legislation to ban “zero-rated” free streaming data impacts 3.6 million consumers

A recently released analysis, Benefits to California Consumers from Zero-Rated Data, authored by Dr. David W. Sosa, Ph.D., shows 3.6 million Californians are benefiting today from “zero-rated” free streaming data. Proposed legislation in California, Senate Bill 822, would ban these types of plans. The findings from Dr. Sosa show that a ban on these types of zero-rating services would “disproportionately” impact minority and lower income consumers that “are more reliant on smartphones to access the internet.” Some of these consumers could have to pay $30 per month more.

Read the full report here.

As FCC Net Neutrality Rules Expire, Internet Survives — For Now

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“This is not doomsday at all. The internet hasn’t broken today,” said Mike Montgomery, executive director of CALinnovates, in a San Francisco Chronicle piece about the expiration of the Federal Communications Commission’s old net neutrality rules. “Consumers aren’t going to see or feel anything changing in their internet experience.”

But what about the future? Read more about Montgomery and other net neutrality advocates’ concerns here.

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