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AT&T eyes large slice of the smart city pie

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The different connectivity options set to underpin smart cities of the future are expected to account for between 5 per cent and 10 per cent of the total smart city value chain, providing a multi-billion dollar opportunity for operators such as AT&T which are already investing heavily in this area. So explained Mike Zeto (pictured), general manager of AT&T Smart Cities, who said the US operator is already planning to take a much larger share than those percentages by “moving up the stack” towards applications and working with partners on the hardware side.

Zeto also noted 5 per cent to 10 per cent of a market which analysts such as Frost & Sullivan estimate will be worth around $1.57 trillion by 2020 is a sizeable opportunity on its own. AT&T – which announced its smart city framework in January 2016 and formed strategic alliances with Cisco, Deloitte, Ericsson, GE, IBM, Intel and Qualcomm – is currently collaborating with around nine US cities on their smart strategies, including Atlanta and Chicago. It recently expanded beyond its domestic market for the first time, choosing Dublin as the launchpad for its future European expansion.

Irish capital
Zeto told Mobile World Live the Irish capital was an obvious choice, in part because many large US multinational corporations are based there, but also because Dublin and the Republic of Ireland in general are already engaging in a number of Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives and Horizon 2020 projects. He said the fact Ireland would still be part of the European Union once the UK completes its exit had “not really” played a role, but praised cities including Dublin and Cork for breaking down traditional silos and enabling the development of a number of services, including intelligent transportation solutions.

In the US the operator is focusing on critical areas with a major impact on the daily lives of citizens. These include smart irrigation systems and the use of IoT sensors to reduce leaks, a traffic intersection network solution to help improve traffic flow, intelligent lighting, and many more besides.

Furthermore, in March 2017 AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) formed a public-private partnership (PPP) with the goal of building a modern, mobile broadband LTE network for first responders across the US. AT&T is investing about $40 billion over the 25-year life of the contract, while the government is investing $6.5 billion.

Zeto noted PPPs will also play a key role in creating smart cities, although many hurdles still lie ahead in the realisation of large-scale smart city projects. Cities have little choice but to respond to growing population levels. As Zeto pointed out, they are moving as fast as they can: “and that is the scary thing.”

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