You probably don’t pay attention to streetlights in your neighborhood, but they are at the forefront of ensuring speedy wireless service for your phone and other devices.
Duke Energy has been leading an effort to improve how utilities and wireless companies deploy digital solutions in a faster, cost-effective and appealing way that benefits communities. The company recently led an effort to locate hundreds of 5G small cell technology on streetlights in uptown Charlotte and other cities.
Sounds mundane, yet it is one of the country’s most successful examples of electric utility and wireless provider collaboration.
The result? You get better cellular service and the streetscape is less cluttered and more appealing.
As telecommunications companies expand their 5G networks across the country, they will need millions of small cell installations for a strong signal to your home, businesses, car and public places. To eliminate the need for a pole that only provides 5G coverage, companies can use colocation, an approach that bundles the company’s antennas and radios on one structure, such as a power pole or streetlight.
The equipment on streetlights is housed in a box on the pole and a cylinder atop the pole.
EEI hosted a series of webinars highlighting the colocation efforts of Duke Energy, Xcel Energy and Southern Company. More than 30 utilities typically listen and ask questions as they share what they’ve learned.
To promote collaboration on a broader scale, Duke Energy’s Customer Solutions team is working with the company's utility operations team and wireless carriers to determine how best to colocate 5G technology on power poles in neighborhoods, said David Hatcher, Duke Energy managing director of infrastructure solutions.
Colocation, Hatcher said, is a more complicated engineering design than a standard power pole, so the company is learning how to install the technology in a way that preserves the safety and the reliability of the grid while meeting the wireless carrier’s needs.
"The more it’s used for electricity and communication,” he said, “the higher the value to our communities.”
What do wireless carriers get out of the collaboration?
“Leveraging existing assets when they are available becomes very critical,” said Majid Khan, a Verizon managing director of strategy & business development.
“Our collaboration with Verizon has been significant – improving service for our customers, in a manner that meets our communities' needs, cost-effectively and timely,” said Michael Luhrs, Duke Energy vice president of market solutions and innovation. “We want to expand this collaboration to other aspects of smart cities development.”