Moscow plans futuristic smart city around 5G apps

Moscow views 5G as a way to establish a unified smart city platform for emergency services, traffic, and medical care. Four carriers are running 5G pilots in busy venues, including VDNH, a park with the world's largest ice skating arena. (Youtube)

Four mobile carriers are running separate 5G pilots in Moscow at a sports arena and other popular venues that the Russian capital expects will create the foundation for a unified smart city platform.

“We regard 5G as a platform for creating a set of smart city solutions to link up various elements of urban infrastructure into a single, convenient and efficient network,” Eduard Lysenko, head of the department of Information Technologies for the city of Moscow said in an email interview with FierceElectronics.

In one use case, 5G at up to 3 Gbps will eventually help improve road safety by allowing vehicles to interact with each other and urban infrastructure, he said. Moscow’s Department of Information Technology is also supporting telecom operators and designers working on healthcare applications and emergency services.

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Sensors installed in roadways will continuously exchange information to help in managing traffic. Vehicles in a flow of traffic will be able to analyze information on potential hazards and make decisions without the involvement of the driver. 

New 5G technologies will also help coordinate emergency fire and rescue services in the city. Helmet cameras, mobile phones and radio could be connected into a single system so an operator can instantly receive and transmit streaming video, sound and other files.

“The implementation will help make the Russian capital a more comfortable and safer place to live,” he added. Until then, his department will help set up a testing lab to help vendors and businesses trial their solutions. After testing, commercial launches are expected in 2022.

Another big function of 5G will be to accelerate processes in the city’s communications systems which are slowed by massive amounts of data. 

With Moscow as a testing ground, Lysenko said the experience the city and carriers gain could be spread across all of Russia. 

In healthcare, he envisions a similar impact with a unified 5G network supporting remote surgeries, meaning it won’t be necessary to transport a patient to a specific clinic. Medical equipment in operation rooms will also be capable of wireless connections.

Lysenko admitted there have been complications in setting up 5G trials which are related to frequency allocation, but he didn’t elaborate. Negotiations are underway to clear up the problems, he said.

The city is also planning to draw up aesthetic criteria for the installation of antenna feeder devices, base stations and radio relay equipment and repeaters on rooftops and the facades of buildings. By end of the third quarter of 2020, the IT department will submit a draft of rules for discussion by city planning experts and telecom operators. That discussion will form the basis for drafting city regulations which telecom operators and infrastructure companies will be required to follow.

Part of the value of the testing laboratory and other preparations is to give participants “the opportunity to interact with one another…to find the best solutions,” he said.

The city’s four 5G pilot zones are located in VDNH, an expansive park that provides the world’s largest ice skating rink; a popular tourist destination along Tverskaya Street; and at Luzhniki Stadium, a massive arena with 81,000 seats.

The city has signed agreements with four mobile operators for the pilots: MTS, MegaFon, Tele2 and VimpelCom. Another two pilots will be launched by the start of 2020. Later in 2020, the city hopes to launch a demo center. The city is not paying for any of the costs of the pilots which are all funded by the operators.

At VDNH, mobile operator MTS is working with telecom equipment provider Huawei, based in China. They are studying use cases that include "smart overtaking," which involves video transmitted wirelessly from cameras in neighboring cars, "smart overtaking," which involves the wireless interaction of a car with the urban infrastructure  and "safe pedestrian" which provides pedestrians with a warning of an approaching car, according to a spokesperson for the city. 

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