Why Governors Island is the testing ground for 5G in NYC

Joshua Breitbart, Deputy CTO of Broadband for the City of New York, explains how NYCx is working with the best minds in wireless tech to provide high-speed, low-cost internet connectivity to the city.

Why Governors Island is the testing ground for 5G in NYC

In March 2018, Joshua Breitbart, Deputy CTO of Broadband for the City of New York - Governors Island spoke with TechRepublic's Dan Patterson about how Governors Island serves as the 5G broadband test run for NYC. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

Breitbart explained, "Part of the vision of the CTO's office is that we have this responsibility for universal broadband." Talking to TechRepublic's Dan Patterson, Breitbart continued, "We also are responsible for engagement with the tech community, and looking at moonshots, and looking at breakthrough technologies. And so, bring those things together, and this Governors Island Challenge is a chance to understand the breakthroughs in broadband. And so that's going to inform what we do citywide.

The Governors Island Connectivity Challenge originated with a need, on Governors Island, to bring connectivity to a part of the city that didn't have it. And working with The Trust for Governors Island, our office saw an opportunity to really challenge the tech sector to bring connectivity to this island, to push current technologies to their max, to look at new technologies that are in the pipeline. To understand what we could do to transform this island from one of the least-connected places to one of the most-connected places.

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So there's been close collaboration and The Trust for Governors Island. And when we issued the challenge we got widespread interest, over two dozen submissions, which we went through multiple stages to get down to the three finalists that are deploying on the island this week. Fiberless, Edgenet, and NCN. They're each bringing a different combination of technologies, a different set of partners, to this pilot deployment this week. And ultimately, one of them is likely to become the partner for The Trust for Governors Island, to provide connectivity here year-round.

Governors Island has a lot of unique attributes, compared to the rest of the city. It's one of the reasons why I, as a New Yorker, have been coming here for the past; I don't know, since I was a kid. Doing historic visits here. And why we love it so much. But there certainly are some things that we can take and apply in terms of the performance of millimeter wave technology, looking at some other attributes of LTE products, and Wi-Fi performance, that will give us an understanding of how they may play out, in different parts of the city. Governors Island gives an opportunity to push some of these things to the limits of their capabilities. To understand an environment where you might fluctuate from a few hundred people to thousands of people, and needing a network that can scale and handle that type of dynamic load is going to be quite informative for what we do citywide.

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Some of the challenges of deploying on Governors Island include the backhaul challenge, some of the challenges include how to get backhaul to the island, how to use wireless, or running fiber through some extreme conditions, how to scale some networks for really varying loads of demand. I think one of the things that we're going to learn here is how to get the right mix of connectivity technology. One of the things that we're seeing everywhere, certainly in the industry players here, is that a lot of companies are starting to converge. Rather than being dedicated to just one type of connection, whether it's some companies are going to be a fiber. We're seeing a lot of convergence in the industry. Companies that used to be just fiber, or just one kind of wireless, now are bringing all those tools into their tool kit. And what we're seeing on the island here is how to work those different tools in the right combination for the right situation.

So that's one of the things I think when we look citywide at New York, it's not going to be a cookie cutter, just drop one technology over the whole city. It's going to have to be a layering of multiple technologies, the right kind of combination. We're going to have to get a wide range of partners to work with to do that. And I think as cities become smart cities, what that's going to mean is understanding the right mix of technology for your city."

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