December 16, 2021

A city planner’s guide to connectivity

Despite being an integral part of modern life, all too often when it comes to city planning and new buildings, connectivity is further down the list of priorities than you would expect. Ensuring the energy efficiency of new buildings is an understandable and vital priority, but the materials used to achieve this can make connectivity a challenge. Tom Kuklo, Global Product Manager Connected Cities at RFS looks at the challenges of delivering connectivity in modern cities and how to address them.

Tom Kuklo, Global Product Manager Connected Cities

The need for green

There is a myriad of reasons why when it comes to planning and constructing new buildings, green is the big priority. The need for sustainability in every sector has been highlighted recently at COP26, and from government incentives and directives to consumer demand, there are a number of powerful drivers behind greener construction. It is absolutely right in the current climate that this is the priority, but there are challenges that are part and parcel of eco-friendly buildings. The materials used to make a building thermal efficient, also happen to be the materials that are best suited to keeping wireless coverage out. So how can architects when designing buildings ensure that by meeting the need for sustainability, they do not ignore the need for connectivity.

Delivering in-building 

The need for in-building connectivity has never been greater. It is widely quoted that The Pandemic forced the need for home working, but it is a shift that looks set to stay, meaning constant, reliable connectivity is needed everywhere. Knowing that more modern buildings can struggle to deliver that connectivity due to the construction of the building, is there anything that can be done? The answer is that from high rise apartment blocks to new offices, for most buildings constructed with energy efficiency in mind, a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) or a Distributed Radio System (DRS) is an effective solution to deliver connectivity indoors. The friction between green needs and connectivity can be easily addressed without compromises on either side, the key is simply to understand those needs and bake in that connectivity at design phase to make sure that every need for a new building is served from the outset. 

The foundation of smart cities

Having tackled the challenges of in-building connectivity, let’s look at the impact of modern construction on the wider city environment, especially when it comes to implementing the technology of smart cities. Recent research from Polaris estimates that the smart city market will reach $1.03 trillion by 2028 and part of the challenge of ensuring that trend reaches its full potential is delivering the connectivity to underpin it. If a city has multiple buildings that act as barriers to full wireless coverage, it is limited in the number and type of smart city solutions it can implement. Therefore, before attempting to deliver a smart city project, connectivity needs to be addressed. In a dense urban environment with buildings blocking coverage, particularly 5G, smart city deployments need to take a different approach. Moving away from the traditional telecoms model of fewer big base station sites, smart cities will need small cell sites within the city to give the comprehensive coverage needed to support applications. This will take the form of small cell sites on buildings, smart poles and integrating connectivity equipment into street furniture to deliver the connectivity foundation on which to build a smart city with minimal visual impact. 

Marrying the needs of a modern city

A city environment is complex with a great variety of needs that need to be met to support modern life. Connectivity is undoubtedly a key part of that, but so is the need to deliver greener building and maintain the aesthetic of the city. The key for architects and city planners is understanding that all of these elements can be delivered without compromise but integrating the right technology at the planning phase. By making this a priority at the earliest phases of projects is the key to delivering the best of all worlds. 

If you would like to hear more about how to adress the challenges of delivering connectivity in modern cities, get in touch with Tom Kuklo, Global Product Manager Connected Cities.