Arlington Prepares for a 5G Future

Arlington County, Virginia, is advancing plans to integrate 5G technology into their smart growth strategy. With faster speeds, ultra-low latency and a massive capacity for data, the impact of 5G is far reaching, going beyond the user to improve businesses, healthcare and government. 

Arlington is starting with the infrastructure. Together, with wireless carriers like Verizon or T-Mobile, Arlington is building small wireless facilities (SWFs), small antennas typically installed on utility poles or street lights in commercial areas. SWFs enable 5G technology by complementing existing cell towers, creating a stronger signal for users and boosting download speeds. 

They plan to make the small wireless facilities (SWFs) as physically and visually unobtrusive as possible, helping balance aesthetics with the County’s operational needs. The SWFs will be installed onto “cobra-style” street lights, which are small and sleek, but provide enough room for necessary equipment.

Nathaniel Wentland, Arlington’s Chief Business Technology Officer who is leading the effort, says the 5G vendor partnerships are essential for the initiative’s long-term success. They help provide the knowledge and support necessary for implementation. “The essential question is: ‘How can we partner with [5G vendors] in order to benefit the constituents of Arlington County?’”

Through 5G, one of Arlington’s overarching goals is to enable better customer services through advanced wireless networks and mobile connectivity. This helps ensure people are easily connected to the systems they need, so that they can access information at anytime. This also helps streamline communication between and amongst business, government agency and customer. 

Take a city’s water authority, for instance. If a customer suspects they have a water leak, with high-speed internet access and real-time data access, they can log onto a website and track their water usage. This eliminates a potentially lengthy phone call, and, eventually, perhaps allows the customer service agent to address other work entirely. 

Wentland adds that allowing data to be shared “helps build a bridge of understanding that Arlington is really trying to work with the community.” He says that they are working with local businesses and communities to promote a collaborative environment surrounding the future of data and connectivity--one where the government is a supportive partner in advancing the county.

Overall, Wentland believes 5G implementation will help build an awareness of government, and set a precedence for public-private partnerships. He hopes the initiative will lay groundwork for continued positive growth in the County, ultimately helping create better lives for constituents, and a better county for the future. 

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