4Q 2021

5G Presents Financial – and Social – Opportunities for Cities

Communication networks have become an essential part of local infrastructure. Secure, reliable, and affordable connectivity is essential for public agencies, services, businesses, residents, and visitors. Almost all aspects of civic, commercial, and consumer life depend on some level of connectivity. And the connectivity landscape is undergoing a major wave of disruption and innovation.

With the advent of 5G wireless networks, cities have an unprecedented opportunity to take control of how ubiquitous connectivity affects not only the financial success but also social and governance aspects of their communities. Cities can generate new revenue streams through the leasing of infrastructure for small cell sites. Perhaps more significantly, they can improve social equity by lessening the digital divide between advantaged and economically challenged neighborhoods. Cities can partner with wireless carriers and leverage municipal assets such as streetlight or utility poles to compel carriers to provide network coverage across all neighborhoods. They may also, through development of city-owned fiber networks, generate measurable revenue for city coffers and attract new business to their cities—further broadening the tax base for new social services.

This Guidehouse Insights report provides detailed information about the financial opportunities that 5G proliferation creates for cities. The report also explores how 5G can improve quality of life, attract industry, and lessen the digital divide. It discusses the challenging community connectivity considerations and provides actionable recommendations for city managers eager to benefit as 5G networks proliferate.

Pages 28
Tables | Charts | Figures 14
  • How can cities benefit financially from 5G proliferation?
  • How can 5G improve quality of life, attract Industry, and lessen the digital divide in cities?
  • How much can cities earn by leasing poles for small cells?
  • How much can cities earn by leasing dark fiber, and should they build a local fiber ring?
  • With whom should cities partner to maximize their benefits as 5G proliferates?
  • City managers
  • Utility networking operators
  • Cellular carriers
  • Regulators
  • Sustainability consultants
  • Networking infrastructure vendors
  • Investor community




5G Proliferation Presents Financial Opportunities for Cities

Mapping the Status of 5G Deployment

Generating Municipal Revenue through Infrastructure Leasing for Small Cell Deployment

5G Depends on Small Cells

Establishing Attachment Fees for Small Cells

5G Small Cells Require Fiber

Building Fiber as a Foundation

Defining Dark Fiber Versus Lit Fiber

Leasing Fiber

Fiber Costs Are High

Case Study: Erie County Planning a Fiber Backbone

Cities Can Improve Quality of Life, Attract Industry, and Lessen the Digital Divide by Embracing 5G

Bridging the Digital Divide: Delivering Social Equity

Providing Public Wi-Fi 

Improving Economic Prosperity 

Improving Government Services, Infrastructure, and Public Participation

Smart Cities Are Laboratories in the 5G Era

Community Connectivity Raises New Challenges

Addressing a Lack of Staffing, Resources, and Skills

Addressing Costs and Financial Risks

Considering Cybersecurity 

Debating Data Privacy

Public Concerns Over Health Risks and Small Cell Aesthetics Are Renewed

Cities Should Partner to Leverage the 5G Ecosystem

Partner with Communications Providers

Partner with Utilities

Partner with Wireless Infrastructure Vendors

  • Potential Annual Small Cell Attachment Revenue over 20 Years, Small City
  • Potential Annual Small Cell Attachment Revenue over 20 Years, Large City
  • 5G Deployments Worldwide
  • Small Cells Found on Rooftops and along Aerial Cable/Fiber, Streetlights, and Standalone Mini-Macro Poles
  • The Drivers for Improved Community Connectivity
  • NYC Subway Wi-Fi Free in Exchange for Watching a 6-Second Ad
  • 5G Is Expected to Amplify, Accelerate, and Extend Smart City Development
  • Smart Poles Can Reduce the Visual Impact of Small Cell Deployments
  • The Connected Community Process: Decision-Making and Performance Evaluation Stream
  • Example Small Cell Attachment Fees Prior to the FCC Ruling and Order
  • Selected Dark Fiber Leasing Companies: Estimated Revenue per Route Mile
  • Models for Selling Dark Fiber Capacity
  • Monthly Lease Rates and Hypothetical Revenue
  • Example Smart City Applications and Technologies
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