Alex Antoneshyn Journalist

Published Monday, October 28, 2019 10:01PM MDT

City considering 5G pilot

In examining how to become a leader in the new field of 5G technology, the City of Edmonton is considering running a pilot project.

The City of Edmonton is exploring the idea of piloting a small 5G network on Whyte Avenue as part of its endeavor to be a leader in digital technology.  

On Monday, the executive committee asked administration to look at setting up the test after receiving a report on the requirements and impacts of 5G infrastructure.

The technology has a faster download speed than LTE (long term evolution) networks and can connect more devices simultaneously.

According to the report, 5G could be used to provide real-time data on traffic, allowing the City to better manage patterns or high-risk locations. It could also be used to monitor Edmonton’s growth patterns or detect acute climate events and environmental changes.

“The more information and data about patterns of what we are doing, the more we can harness the technology and power of computing to come up with better answers for ourselves,” said Ward 8 Councillor Ben Henderson.

“The trade-off for that is: How do you make sure the information that you are getting is not personally identifiable and doesn’t deal with privacy issues?”

Indeed, the report delivered to the committee notes the use and marketplace of 5G networks is limited—even around the world—due to its youth.  

However, if Edmonton were to provide 5G, it would likely strength existing and attract new businesses and industries, the report says.

Administration consulted the provincial government, several post-secondary schools, technology investors, as well as Edmonton Global and Edmonton Economic Development Corporation for the research.

It will deliver the next report on setting up a pilot by April 2020.

With files from CTV Edmonton’s Jeremy Thompson


5G technology could be destined for Edmonton

City’s proposed digital plan includes the super fast wireless technology

Edmonton could be on the cutting edge of technology as it continues to explore the option of installing a 5G network, which would offer improved wireless speeds, connectivity and stability.

At an executive committee meeting Monday at city hall, councillors approved a digital action plan based on implementing the fifth generation of wireless technology.

The technology is available in a limited number of countries but is not yet supported in Canada, though it could be as early as the end of 2020.

Coun. Ben Henderson said the technology will give the city momentum.

“I think this is exciting,” Henderson said at the meeting. “If we don’t do this kind of thing, we will regret it later.”

The report presented to the committee did not include costs.

The technology enables faster speeds with higher volumes of data for activities like video calling, instant messaging, streaming and browsing.

It gives users the ability to connect more devices at the same time, compared to the widely used 4G, commonly referred to as LTE or Long Term Evolution.

The city aims to extend cellular connectivity through LRT tunnels and expand free public Wi-Fi to more facilities and locations. On the world stage, 5G is in its early stages in a few cities in South Korea, Italy, Estonia, the U.K., and the U.S., the city report says.

Edmonton is working with the private sector to develop the infrastructure. Henderson noted Shaw and Telus have installed fibre optic lines that will support a 5G network.

Ryan Walker, a design specialist with Telus, told the committee that 5G can be used in conjunction with other technology, like artificial intelligence, to detect things like the number of pedestrians waiting at an intersection and potentially affect the timing of lights.

People will be afraid of Big Brother.– Coun. Scott McKeen

Algorithms are being developed to anticipate behaviour and could be used to help curb crime, Walker said.

For example, a person standing near a building who shakes a spray can could be flagged as someone preparing to tag a building.

Walker said Telus is focusing on technology that allows cameras to pick up on activity but not identify individual people, “removing that ‘Big Brother’ lair concept from the security cameras.”

Coun. Scott McKeen said the city will have a role in letting people know how things work.

“If we’re going to go out and engage the public, those will be really important because people will be afraid of Big Brother.”

Henderson agreed public consultation will be key in making sure people’s privacy concerns are addressed.

A living lab on Whyte

Jaya Panwar, general manager of Telus in Edmonton, pitched the idea of creating a living lab on Whyte Avenue.

The living lab — a research term — would involve installing technical infrastructure like fibre optic cables, small cells and camera sensors.

Panwar told the meeting the lab would test 5G uses in a specific area.

“We have an environment ready to go from a technical perspective that can just try things out in.”

Telus chose Whyte Avenue based on existing partnerships with police and conversations with the Old Strathcona Business Association, she said.

“We’re working very closely with the Edmonton Police Service to help reduce crime and help create safer environments.”

Panwar said Telus is looking for a 12-month partnership with the city, Stantec and police.

The committee asked administration to report back next spring on the progress of the digital plan and work on associated pilots, like the living lab on Whyte.

Canada is expected to adopt new standards and regulations on 5G technology by the end of next year.


5G ‘living lab’ proposal for Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue raises privacy concerns

Talk about turning Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue into a testing ground for 5G technology is raising some concerns about privacy. Vinesh Pratap explains.


City councillors on executive committee gave the go-ahead for city staff to continue exploring a partnership with Telus to use 5G technology in what the company said would be a ‘living lab’, testing new surveillance and algorithm technology along Whyte Avenue.

Telus has previously tested its 5G lab concept in Vancouver, working with the controversial company Huawei.

READ MORE: Telus says ban on Huawei over national security concerns could set back 5G network plan

The company says it won’t be Big Brother, however councillors Monday cautioned against using gains in artificial intelligence to invade privacy.

Coun. Jon Dziadyk asked about whether the company could use high-tech cameras and face recognition to identify alleged individuals in petty crime.

Ryan Walker, a senior design specialist with Telus, said the company has no plans to do so. “It needs oversight and understanding,” he told the committee.

“This opportunity through Whyte Ave. came through our partnership with the Edmonton Police and with some conversations with the Old Strathcona Business Association,” Walker said.

“So they (the association) came to the Edmonton Police with a very tactical problem statement around crime — graffiti. I think there was over the summer months there, there was an individual lighting cars on fire, so that was kind of the catalyst of what can we do, what can they do?”

READ MORE: Stephen Harper urges Canada to ban Huawei from 5G network in Fox News appearance

Walker also told the committee there can be real-time efforts to assist with health care, for instance if someone who’s homeless is sleeping under a bus bench.

“Can a sensor assist some trigger, that says ‘Hey, that’s out of the normal scope’, can we do some sort of health info proactively as opposed to reactively,” Walker said.

“All of these are for that AI behavioral type of environments where we’re very cautious on the privacy and the health impacts. Where are those? What are the rules? But there are areas where it can help, it can benefit.”

Coun. Scott McKeen was interested in one proposal.

“They think that they’re going to be able to have an algorithm where somebody is… shaking a spray can to start their graffiti work,” McKeen told Global News.

“They might be able to have an alert on that go to police, or to bylaw and respond quickly.”


READ MORE: Ottawa, Toronto Rogers Centre to become test sites for 5G wireless network

It’s the Big Brother aspect that worried some councillors. “We can certainly make things more convenient,” said Coun. Ben Henderson.

“The trade off of that is how do you make sure the information we’re getting is not personally identifiable and doesn’t deal with privacy issues.”


City staff told the committee no specific partnership is currently in place, so it’s premature to include police in any discussion. “It’s early days,” said deputy city manager Stephanie McCabe.

In a statement emailed to Global News, a TELUS spokesperson said:

“TELUS presented a proposal to build a Smart City Living Lab on Whyte Avenue, aligning with the direction of the city’s Digital Action Plan. The proposal would see TELUS install next-generation technology along mutually-determined sections of Whyte Avenue, providing residents and businesses access to advanced connectivity.

“The Living Lab will not only prepare the area for future 5G connectivity, but will also provide valuable information to the city that will help increase safety through pedestrian and vehicle monitoring and aid in growth design with real-time trend and movement analytics.

“TELUS has a longstanding, strong working relationship with the city and, if the proposal moves forward, we will work collaboratively with city officials, partners and community stakeholders to ensure the Living Lab will deliver value to Edmontonians,” wrote Doug Self, with TELUS public relations.

An EPS spokesman declined comment via email because “the proposal is external to police.”

Work will continue on the scope of the test lab, with the proposal due to be back before city councillors in April.

Should Canada allow Huawei to build the country’s 5G network?