As COVID-19 shifted education from classroom to home-based learning, students without broadband internet access were significantly challenged. As a result, school districts in rural, urban, and suburban locations used their Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) money to fund student wireless broadband packages that typically included a computer and a connectivity hotspot. That connectivity hotspot was often enabled via a CBRS band wireless signal on a private network. In many of these deployments, city CIO’s have begun to take the lead in closing the digital divide in their home area and are also beginning to use these new CBRS networks as infrastructure for a broader digital transformation.
In 2021, we’ll see more and more cities take the lead, including leveraging CARES Act money and school district networks will transition to city led deployments. The primary motivation for this Smart City movement will be to enable innovation, promote job growth and control costs — such as utilities — within a city. Early smart city use-cases include IoT networks equipped with real-time analytics for transportation, utilities, parks and streetlights; autonomous and virtual platforms for training and productivity; city and government policy-enforced smartphones and tablets; first responder data terminals, camera’s and license plate readers; and smart vehicles and robotics. In the next year, CBRS-enabled smart cities will expand from a handful in 2020 to several dozen by the end of 2021.