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Smart cities are built on smart networks

Smart cities use information and communication technologies (ICT) to drive economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability, and general livability. By leveraging broadband as a core element of their development, smart cities of the future will:

  • Foster economic growth
  • Improve the lifestyle of citizens
  • Create opportunities for urban development and renewal
  • Support eco-sustainability initiatives
  • Improve the political and representative process
  • Provide access to advanced financial services


Smart cities will realize these opportunities by taking advantage of public/private partnerships in which telecom service providers and ICT solution providers bring in their assets, expertise, and experience. Following are keys to the smart city.

The city-net is based upon wireline and wireless broadband networks, giving access to a high-capacity (IP and optical) communications infrastructure. It becomes the basis for all government-to-government, government-to-citizen, government-to-businesses, and businesses/citizen-to-citizen communications.

The smart city will invest in data-centers and a government cloud, control platforms for multimedia and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. Combined with an open data approach and Internet of Things (IoT), these investments will enable a wealth of new applications that benefit the city and its population.

Once the foundation is laid out, there is ample opportunity to optimize the city’s public infrastructure, including buildings, public space, roads, traffic lights, parking, etc. Optimization contributes to a sustainable environment. Elements like a smart grid helps reduce CO2 footprint and energy bills, and wireless sensors can continuously monitor and control pollution, lighting, and waste.

The next step in building a smart city is stimulating entrepreneurship and enabling the creation of new applications to enrich daily life of all citizens. Although many of these applications will be developed by 3rd parties, they will benefit from the city network’s capabilities: mobility, location, high availability, QoS, security, etc.

By using their assets proactively and exploring new public/private partnerships and ecosystems, service providers can become important strategic partners to industries and governments that drive smart city projects. And to the city’s consumers and businesses.

Community engagement is a key factor for successful smart city rollout. This includes citizen participation in governments’ decision-making processes through surveys and feedback loops, as well as interactions between smart citizens via social media platforms and dedicated community portals. Smart cities also provide opportunities to create a more inclusive society, by using the technology platform for supporting digital equality initiatives and end-user education.


While there is no absolute definition of a “smart city”, smart city initiatives all point to the use of IT technology and broadband communications infrastructure. Smart cities recognize that ICT can help them proactively address challenges and opportunities in key domains such as:

  • Economic activity
  • Infrastructure efficiency
  • Mobility
  • Energy distribution and consumption
  • Environment
  • Safety
  • e-government
  • Digital inclusion
  • Healthcare
  • Culture
  • Citizen welfare

Machine-to-machine and the Internet of Things

The right ICT infrastructure will affect the way each city will be created and evolve. And it will enable smart cities to include vastly enhanced sustainable areas. Ultra-broadband, cloud and M2M applications provide innovative and cost-effective ways to manage millions of devices that enrich the lives of citizens and attract businesses. These will include smart buildings, smart infrastructures (water, energy, heat, and transportation) and smart services (e-substitutes and e-services for travel, health, education, and entertainment). All will drastically change the urban experience for city dwellers and travelers.

What makes a smart city?
Source: Boyd Cohen on FastCompany


Beyond other lifestyle issues, consider the role of broadband in bolstering economic growth:

  • The European Cities Monitor report cites “the quality of telecoms” as the 3rd ranking priority when businesses consider relocating[1].
  • For every €1 spent on broadband, €14 can be generated for the local economy[2].
  • 10% increase in broadband penetration producing 0.25%–3.6% growth in GDP[3].
  • Broadband is responsible for 20% of new jobs across all businesses, and 30% of new jobs in businesses with less than 20 employees[4].
  • For every 1,000 additional broadband users, 80 new jobs are created[5].


Worldwide, people are increasingly moving to urban areas. These growing urban populations, in combination with constrained financial and natural resources, are shaping the requirements for the evolution towards smarter, safer and greener cities. Consider these statistics:

  • In 2010 more than half of the world population lived in an urban area. By 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people[6].
  • In 1950, 30% of the world’s population was urban, and by 2050, 66%  of the world’s population is projected to be urban[7].
  • By 2025 there will be 37 mega-cities with a population above 10 million people[8].
  • Cities represent three quarters of energy consumption and 80% of CO2 emissions worldwide, and represent the largest of any environmental policy challenge[9].
  • Traffic congestion costs for the UK's 18 largest towns and cities has risen to a total of GBP 4.4 B per year, through wasted fuel, time, and the indirect cost to consumer bills[10].
  • When the population of a city doubles, crime rates per capita raise 15% on average[11].

Governments and municipalities are under pressure to invest in sustainable infrastructure, deploy information and communication systems, and deliver services to their citizens and their workers. Smart cities are necessary to meet the challenges of urban life.


Smart city projects are very complex and require expertise in many different fields to succeed, including funding, urban planning, architecture, transport, energy, and communications.

Smart city projects also require cooperation between public and private sectors in order to embrace dimensions like financing, citizen engagement, and technology. A single player can’t do it all.

In line with its Shift Plan, Alcatel-Lucent has moved from being a generalist telecom provider to a multi-specialist. With our network of specialized partners, we engage with governments, municipalites, and smart-city integrators in a number of domains:

  • Ultra-broadband access gives citizens and businesses the broadband they expect in outdoor public places as well as indoors. Small cell and Wi-Fi options can help ensure superior coverage and quality while reducing carbon footprint.
  • IP routing and transport solutions help cities transition from siloed to converged network administration for greater efficiency.
  • Motive M2M, device management saves money and time with remote provisioning, configuration, OS and firmware updates, and device troubleshooting.
  • Cloud technologies like those offered by Nuage Networks SDN reduce costs and enable business models that let providers differentiate themselves in the marketplace.
  • IMS communications allow to better connect  public administrations, organize communities of contact, and provide them with a new conversation experience.


  1. [1] “European Cities Monitor”, Cushman and Wakefield, 2011
  2. [2] “Growth Prospectus Policies – Step 7: Speed Up Broadband”, Core Cities, 2013
  3. [3] “Impact of broadband on the economy”, ITU Broadband Series, 2012
  4. [4] Lawrence Strickling, Assistant Secretary, US Department of Commerce, Testimony before US Congress, July 2012
  5. [5] “Social Net Benefits of IPTV and BB Infrastructure Investments”, Eric Almqvist, IPTV World Forum MEA, 2010
  6. [6] “Situation and trends in key indicators”, WHO Global Health Observatory, 2014
  7. [7] “World Urbanization Prospects”, United Nations, 2014 revision
  8. [8] “UNEP Year Book”, United Nations Environment Programme, 2013
  9. [9] “Smart cities: innovation in energy will drive sustainable cities”, The Guardian, November 2013
  10. [10] “Britain urged to tackle costly traffic congestion”, Business Green, March 2014
  11. [11] “Business Strategy: Smart City Strategies, IDC Government Insights, 2012

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Marc Jadoul

About Marc Jadoul

Marc Jadoul is Strategic Marketing Director at Nokia. A computer scientist by education, and technology evangelist, storyteller, speaker, and blogger by vocation.

Author/co-author of 200+ papers, magazine articles and conference presentations, and a frequent speaker and panelist at industry events, Marc is an advocate of Albert Einstein’s dictum “if you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.”

Tweet me at @mjadoul

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