Londoners could soon begin to enjoy the benefits of 5G technologies.

City hall’s information technology (IT) department is asking local politicians to give the green light to a two-year pilot project between the city and Rogers Communications Canada that would see the installation of 5G cellular telecommunication devices – the next generation of mobile, network technology – at three locations across the city.

The devices, which would be installed at 31 traffic light posts and traffic signals, would allow Rogers users with 4G-plus and 5G-compatible devices to access the 5G network and take advantage of the higher speed and improved connectivity it offers, said Mat Daley, city’s hall director of IT services.

“What’s so exciting about this is that this creates the capacity for the next generation of really exciting technologies such as autonomous vehicles, IOT or the Internet of Things technology, augmented reality and virtual reality,” Daley said.

“All of those new, exciting technologies require high-speed, high connectivity, all characteristics of 4G-plus and 5G networks.”

Under existing 4G networks, downloading a high-definition movie can take on average about four minutes. In contrast, 5G networks would allow users to download the same movie in about 13 seconds.

The three locations identified by staff to test the project are the commercial plaza at Fanshawe Park and Hyde Park roads, Western University’s campus and the downtown around Budweiser Gardens and Dundas Place.

The pilot project would come at no cost to taxpayers, as Rogers would be footing the bill for the initiative.

Allowing the project to move forward would also allow the city to start laying the groundwork to adopt 5G infrastructure, Daley said, adding this technology will be a key component of London’s “smart city” strategy, an initiative that aims to use data, technology and innovative ideas to create innovative solutions for everyday challenges.

Some examples of smart city ventures discussed in the past at city hall include:

  • A map that overlays different sets of data to plot the safest bike ride or easiest place to park to address transportation or mobility challenges.
  • Crime data and smart lighting technology used to increase community safety.
  • Sensors used to track water flow and trigger early warning signs of a flood.

The initiatives are about mobilizing technology – such as smartphone apps, open data, digital mapping tools, just to name a few – to tackle social and community issues.

“All the new technologies will require higher speed, higher connectivity and lower latency, so the earlier we can invest in this (technology) the better it is for users,” Daley said.

“These types of networks create a backbone for those kinds of undertakings.”

Coun. Josh Morgan, who chairs the city’s corporate services committee, said this project was an opportunity the city couldn’t let pass by and one that would help London be better prepared for when 5G technology becomes the norm.

“I think it is a good idea to participate in pilot projects for technology like this, especially when there’s no cost to the city,” he said.

“It’ll give us the opportunity to understand the impacts of the technology and our staff to prepare any administrative policy we would need to have in place to deploy it on a wider scale when that becomes a reality.”

Though only Rogers customers would benefit from the pilot project, Daley said city hall’s agreement would not be exclusive, meaning other telecommunication companies could also approach the city with their own proposals.

If approved by council at its Tuesday meeting, installation of the 5G infrastructure could begin as early as this year.

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