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.