Edzcom, Signify to build private smart-city network on 5G lightpoles in Finland
Finland-based Edzcom and Netherlands-based Signify have entered a partnership to build a private smart-city 5G and IoT network using street-lighting and other road infrastructure for the city of Tampere, in Finland. The network, which is to be deployed and densified in quick-time by Edzcom and Signify, will be for smart-city monitoring and tracking applications, and also for the city’s engagement with citizens and monetization of municipal and commercial data.
It will morph into a network for higher-grade safety and security applications, said Tampere, typically with live streaming cameras attached, and for autonomous driving in the longer term. It is not clear, as yet, whether the new city-owned 5G network will be available to local residents and enterprises for everyday public communications. It is also unclear, from an initial press statement, which companies are providing the 5G radio and core componentry, as it is, about which spectrum the new smart-city network will utilise – although the fact Edzcom owns its own spectrum at 450 MHz and 2.6 GHz in Finland would present a logical answer to the last question.
Signify’s latest BrightSites solution, with integrated RAN antennas, can accommodate a range of IoT sensors and cameras for municipal environmental monitoring and security options, on top of standard smart LED lighting and controls; it also offers LTE and 5G connectivity into the bargain. Its original BrightSites solution, housing an LTE small cell in the light pole, was a collaboration with Ericsson; the Swedish vendor’s continued involvement is unconfirmed.
But then, Nokia, which has tended to be Cellnex-owned Edzcom’s go-to partner for cellular radio functions, does not have the track record with Signify. Plus, at the start of the year, Signify signed a deal with smart-city broadband provider Siklu to bundle the Israel-based firm’s ‘multi-haul’ ‘multi-gigabit’ hardware (branded ‘MultiHaul’) into its BrightSites portfolio – to convert streetlights into a “wireless connectivity grid [that] can facilitate a wide range of digital city services.”
The new infrastructure in Tampere is billed as a 5G mesh network, which is akin to the Siklu proposition. Again, however, this is unconfirmed; Enterprise IoT Insights has asked for clarification. What is clear is the three parties involved are talking about the project in a way that makes the smart city concept appealing again, having appeared over 24 months to be confined to and confirmed as mostly-siloed digital and departmental disciplines.
Tampere, which has developed a strong reputation as a smart-city pioneer and testbed, said the new 5G mesh infrastructure has been in the works for 18 months, at least, stemming from conversations with Signify about the viability of its 5G-equipped (and Ericsson-backed) lighting poles. Edzcom, Finland’s favourite son for private industrial networking, has since joined the discussion, it seems – if it wasn’t the talk of Finnish-5G town anyway.
Edzcom and Signify have been working together for a couple of years already to offer Li-Fi based solutions combining two-way wireless infrared and visible light connectivity for industrial IoT applications to customers in the manufacturing, energy, oil and gas, ports and logistics, mining, and oil and gas industries. Their existing arrangement covers Signify’s Li-Fi portfolio, which goes under the brand Trulifi, with Edzcom supplement its standard offer of industrial LTE and 5G connectivity with Li-Fi based sensor solutions.
Edzcom said the new Tampere deployment will be high grade and rollout will be quick. Signify, which acquired UK rival Telensa at the end of last year, talked about lighting as-a-platform for new smart-city pursuits, claiming Tampere will be an “advanced data-driven city run on analytics… [that is] predictive and cognitive in nature”. The network will provide “fully controlled digital 5G connectivity”, which will presumably, at least initially, be in the hands of Edzcom to manage.
The city itself, which is hosting the Tampere Smart City Week expo next week (June 14-15) at the new “next-gen” Nokia (sponsored) Arena, where the new private 5G network will be on show, said the project will make it a “data driven city for citizens”, where locals can “connect with a broad information flow, like videos and other forms of sharing” – and demonstrate how mid-sized towns and large-sized towns can confront the challenge of “slow [digital] development” and punch above their weight, on a level with the world’s deep-pocketed mega cities.
Comments from the various participants go like this… Mikko Uusitalo, managing director at Edzcom, said: “This infra-project is about utilising the assets that Tampere has – in this case, the streetscape assets, [which] enabled Edzcom and Signify to build a very high-performance wireless private network for the city. We can also provide a faster roll-out for 5G densification on top of the base network… The city… is the leader in… the smart city [space] by a mile – [and] well recognised in the Nordics and further afield. This is [the] first project like this in Finland, so the city is a pioneer and the project is unique.”
Khalid Aziz, head of BrightSites by Signify, said: “Where there is light, there are people and where there are people, [there should be] connectivity. Our BrightSites solution will help customers transform lighting assets into a digital platform [and] open up the opportunity for new business models and monetisation. This is the game changer… [for] communication networks of the future.
He added: “We have helped create a more advanced data driven city run on analytics, as well as being predictive and cognitive in nature. That vision of how the city should evolve, and how the lighting infrastructure enables that, came together in Tampere. [The city] has been an early adopter and has set a good example of how to embrace new technology and how to transform technology by using assets it already has.”
Teppo Rantanen, executive director for growth, innovation, and competitiveness at the City of Tampere, said: “Tampere wants to be the forerunner-city [for] new technologies… We were asked [18 months ago] to look at something [from] Signify around 5G mesh technology and how to divide the 5G network in a new way, and we were immediately excited by the potential – particularly [with the] new arena that opened in December 2021. One of the central features of the programme is… to make the data serve citizens better [so] people can connect with a broad information flow, like videos and other forms of sharing.”
Markku Niemi, director of smart city development at Business Tampere, said: “In the future, it will also be about things like looking at security and safety, as well as other elements like autonomous driving and how we can connect that with low latency which 5G will bring us. When it comes to digitalisation, Tampere is now recognised as a strong thought leader. Tampere Smart City Week will be a fantastic showcase to a broader audience of what can be achieved with the right partners sharing a similar vision.”