How New York City plans to become a 5G leader

New York's Governors Island Connectivity Challenge is a testing ground to deploy next-gen wireless connectivity technologies at the quickest speeds and lowest cost possible, says CTO Miguel Gamino.

This is the third interview in a series of videos with New York's CTO Miguel Gamino. The other videos may be found here:

5G is one of the biggest oncoming technologies. In New York City, there are big, old buildings that may be hard to get fiber into. Those buildings and places like Brownfield may not have the infrastructure for a broadband. TechRepublic met New York's CTO Miguel Gamino to discuss what NYC is doing with 5G and how those initiatives will get off the ground in a physically big place.

You can watch the video above, or read the transcript below.

"5G is a really important piece of the puzzle potentially. I think the jury is still out, largely, on how it will really come to fruition, how is it really going to come to life in the ambition to connect everyone all the time. I think that we are certainly playing a leading edge role in this equation. Both, by the way, we're thinking internally on our broadband plan. We're thinking about the reality of the need for multimodal solutions," Gamino said.

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"In some cases, it's going to be fiber. In other cases, fiber is going to be a challenge, and we need to look for wireless of other technologies that don't have the same challenges. Again, on the diversity angle, in a place that's physically diverse, also, as New York, where you have some neighborhoods that are very, very dense and concentrated, and very vertical.

You have other neighborhoods that are more horizontal, and you have waterways, and bridges, and all kinds of physical geographic and the built environment elements, right? We can't expect to accomplish ubiquitous broadband in an environment like that with one technology. I think that's the obvious thing in New York is it's gonna require a very careful mixture of technologies to accomplish true ubiquitous or pervasive broadband access," he continued.

"The question is what role does 5G play in that mixture? And the challenge on Governors Island that I mentioned earlier is an important element to us better understanding its value and its role. Truthfully, in a lot of ways, the technologists themselves really beginning to test this in the real world. One of the elements of NYCx broadly is that we're creating real urban environments for this technology to be demonstrated, and tested, and iterated. 5G and the Governors Island connectivity challenge is a perfect example of that.

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We need to accomplish pervasive connectivity on the island, we also want to, as part of that, understand how we can learn from the technology applications on the island to inform our city-wide thinking about accomplishing pervasive broadband. Governors Island is an island.

We have other big islands, right? That make up New York and so, looking at it as a test bed to accomplish its own discrete goal, at the same time, using that to inform the broader goals for a broadband across the city will basically answer the question you're asking me, which is how will 5G play in this bigger picture of broadband for everyone. This is precisely the question we're very specifically discovering in that challenge," he added.

"With Governors Island as the test bed, as you described, do you work with partners, say Verizon or Spectrum, or is this a city 5G initiative? Just some insights about how the technology might work," Patterson asked.

"When we launched the challenge in every public form I was allowed to, I said, "This is an invitation to everyone on the planet." The big incumbent telecommunications providers who are the current established players in that market and a guy and gal in a startup garage somewhere that have a different approach to the technology. We wanted truly to discover all those possibilities because we don't know.

We don't know whether the technology is going to come from the big telecom providers of the world or if it's going to come as a new approach or a new technical architecture from a couple of folks that are still at Columbia, right? The invitation was truly open. I think as we move into the next phase of demonstration, we're demonstrating and testing a couple of things," Gamino said.

"Both the technology, as we've already talked about, how will it accomplish the technical goal of having everyone connected, but truthfully also it's demonstrating the business model. How will we be able to accomplish the deployment in terms of what our roles should be as a city in the conversation? What should the private sector's role be in the conversation? What should the venue, what should their role be in that conversation?

At the same time we're learning about the technology, we're also learning about the potential business structures that make this economically viable to accomplish the goal. We are really, truly, and very openly, inviting and trying to understand how to make all those things work together," he added.

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Image: iStock/koo_mikko

About Dan Patterson

Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.

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