The terms are often used interchangeably, but you can implement a smart city with or without 5G, and 5G doesn’t need to live in a smart city. But if you don’t want to be left in the digital dust, it seems clear that the trend is to not pursue one without keeping the other in mind.

Smart cities, in their various incarnations, are already beginning to happen. But existing 4G, 3G, and wireless networks can only do so much. The current limits on the number of connections these networks can support, as well as their data carrying capacity and their data speed. For the idea of the smart city to reach its true potential, the essential element is 5G.

A smart city's data usage could include traffic monitoring, utilities management, and even V2X ("vehicle-to-everything") connectivity for autonomous vehicles. The long-promised “self-driving car” can hardly amount to much more than a toy without a smart network amalgamating it with the traffic control system, telling it when to stop and go without the need for human intervention.

5G's speed and low latency could ease some of the immense strain produced by the resulting data-hungry system. Marie Ma, Combra Telecom’s Senior Director of Technical Marketing Solutions and General Manager of Enterprise Business, described this concept in an interview with Techwire Asia as hyperconnectivity—the huge number of data points simultaneously passing huge data streams across the length and breadth of the covered area.

But you don’t have to wait for 5G and it’s OK to start small. You don’t even have to call it a smart city. Digital empires can be built piece by piece.

Here are three examples of 5G smart cities in the making right now. 


Citywide Digitalization in Australia

Taking advantage of earlier digital network infrastructure put in place to support the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the city of Gold Coast, Australia is building an IoT network covering greater than 500 square miles, along with a supporting fiber-optic broadband system.


The Gold Coast, Australia. Image used courtesy of Sandid.


In August, Australian telecom company Telstra announced that it "switched on" 5G for the Gold Coast area. As reported in ZDNet, early goals for the system include digital monitoring of water metering and waste management. The IoT system will not be limited to government use, but made available to all and to spur connectivity across the board.

As of March, Telstra had been sending 5G vehicles into the area: "We are also using mmWave spectrum and our 5G Gold Coast Innovation Centre to put a connected car on the road with the Intel 5G Automotive Trial Platform, one of the most advanced 5G prototype devices available in the world today." 


A Telstra 5G vehicle. Image used courtesy of Telstra


The cars are equipped with Intel's 5G Mobile Trial Platform, which aims to combine Intel processors, antenna and RF components, and several FPGAs to develop mobile, scalable, and system-level 5G technologies.


5G Service for Africa

Vodacom is applying an interesting twist in the tiny nation of Lesotho in Africa. 5G here will be implemented at a frequency band centering on 3.5GHz as opposed to frequencies about ten times as great that power conventional 5G. Bandwidth will be lower, but the longer wavelengths will do a better job of penetrating into buildings.

This is central to the plan here, which is to replace outdated broadband modem services with a “fixed 5G” service for two large customers. Supporting rapid-fire mobile communications and wide area IoT is not yet in the offing here.

The important point is that while the service is only expected to offer download speeds of 700 Mbps with 10-millisecond latency, Vodacom is sticking to “standards-based 5G.” This is important because it insures that the system won’t bog down into a non-standard, obsolete white elephant as time goes on, but it will rather be poised to grow along with evolving 5G technology.

Just today, Vodacom announced the official release of their Lesotho 5G commercial service with a 5G-powered drone demonstration:​


Moscow's Ambitious Plans for 5G

In May, Moscow officials signed documentation stating their intention to develop telecommunications infrastructure through projects such as AR/VR and further development of the IoT. Among their priorities were both "smart city technology" and 5G.

According to the official website of Moscow's mayor, "The document was signed in accord with the provisions of the Russian Federation’s Digital Economy State Programme, which provides for creating pilot 5G networks before the third quarter of 2019 and the commercial launch of these networks before 2022."

Moscow’s efforts will center on healthcare, transport, construction and housing utilities. The city has a head start because of the enormous wealth of digital infrastructure built for the recent Moscow World Cup

The city plans to begin testing specific 5G elements in 2019. A first 5G effort for the evolving system will be to enable the quick transfer of gigantic ultrasound diagnostic files between different points of the medical establishments.



These examples illustrate that smart cities can be built from the ground up. Or, a smart city can come up from a very humble just-barely-5G beginning. It can even evolve out of an older gigantic system originally built to host a sporting event as it has in Moscow.

The future of smart cities may look different in five to 10 years. As each of these example areas grow and change, the challenges of hyperconnectivity may require more than even 5G can offer.


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1 Comment

  • WiFi Kid 2018-10-10

    Hi Gary,
    I read your article with interest.
    I live on the Gold Coast and I suffer extremely from exposure to microwave non-ionised radiation and even your qualifications could imagine that the thing you love and promote is causing the great influx in cardiovascular, neurological and haemeodynamic disorder.  Also, the multitudes of breast, brain and other cancers have increased enormously over the past 30 years and a person like never considers the increase in children as well.
    Did you know that there are other countries throughout the world that are banning the use of wireless technology of children, and are being removed out of many schools and libraries, and you are promoting the untested 5G that is know in the military to be dangerous.

    If I have known the dangers of exposure to microwave non-ionised radiation since 1970, then how come you in your wisdom haven’t researched all the military medical research pre-1980 or did any testing with this untested 5G that you are so wrapped in and believe to be SMART?
    You lack the knowledge and understanding of the dangers to the exposure of microwave non-ionised radiation and even electrical and magnetic fields that are a certain risk and this blatant coverage of the Gold Coast without testing constitutes in itself a public and private nuisance.  The egregious character is due to the fact that it has a bearing on human health.
    You are promoting and untested and dangerous frequency of above 25GHz, without any consideration of the fact that it has a bearing on human, animal and insect life.  Are you prepared to exterminate all life on Planet Earth, and by your comment it appears so: “These examples illustrate that smart cities can be built from the ground up. Or, a smart city can come up from a very humble just-barely-5G beginning. It can even evolve out of an older gigantic system originally built to host a sporting event as it has in Moscow.”
    Heavens above Gary, weren’t you ever coached or instructed in regards to safety, and please don’t hide behind the ridiculous thing called safety regulations, when in fact, the stringent safeguards was 100mG pre-1980, and they were sabotaged by people like you and governments and raised the safety regulation to 1,000-2,000mGs to make everything appear safe.

    Gary, haven’t you noticed the increase of children’s illnesses over the past 30 years since the introduction of wireless technology and the removal of the stringent safeguards by the Australia, US, UK and Canada and all safe and cosy when most hide behind their new safety regulations without any regards to human, animal and insect life.

    Gary have a read of the research papers, particularly the 1972 Naval Research Medical Institute (NRMI) study and other studies on:

    I can supply many as far back as 1959.