The extensive deployment of 5G technology has started in leading markets and will accelerate globally over the next five or so years. When the implementation of small cells using high radio frequencies will start, base stations will be installed in the cityscape at intervals of 30-50 meters, even more densely in some places. This requires a new kind of thinking in land use planning, permits and private-public collaboration.

The extensive 5GKIRI co-operation project of eight major Finnish cities emerged from the need to recognize the role and potential of cities in enabling high-speed communications networks. Project was coordinated by Sitowise.

A key finding of the project was the need to develop more flexible municipal land use planning and permit processes. At the same time, telecom operators should be more actively involved in land use planning processes already at an early stage. Open and active exchange of information and cooperation between cities and telecom operators is an important enabler for the 5G revolution.

On the basis of lessons learned in the 5GKIRI project, we have gathered valuable tips for cities on their way to the age of high-speed communications.

1. Build extensive fibre-optic connections.

High-speed communications and base stations require certified fiber-optic connections and power supply. It is the foundation of all smart city functionalities.

Will the city provide empty installation pipes for electricity and telecommunications as a platform for new services? Or will the city construct a telecommunication network in new residential areas alongside water and electricity network, and thus secure communication connections in the same way as it currently offers, for example, street and park infrastructure?

There are many options available. In any case, the construction of fiber optic and power supply is a major investment that requires the cities to create a flexible, nationally consistent and sustainable culture of cooperation.

2. Agree on ownership of telecommunications infrastructure development. 

City's telecommunications development should have a clear owner in the city organization to coordinate and lead sustainable 5G infrastructure development and construction.

It is advisable to have the management of telecom infrastructure management clearly named to one entity. The responsible entity then takes care of the equitable and sustainable network construction as well as a functioning market for fiber and mobile connections throughout the city.

3. Reform and streamline land use planning and permit processes.

Location of the structures required by the telecommunication network should be recognized and predicted. These locations should be taken into account at different levels of land use planning, in good time. 

It is also important to involve telecom operators in the planning in order to make the necessary zoning reservations for the base stations.

By making reservations for mast and pole positions and power stations in the local detailed plan leads to reduced need for plan deviations in permitting stage. Cities should promote nationally uniform practices and guidelines , for example regarding permit needs.

4. Create equitable cost-sharing and define reasonable permit fees.

Nationally uniform permit fee practices and incentives for co-construction would clarify and rationalize the cost of network construction. Excavation costs account for 60-80% of the total costs, so avoiding repeated excavation of streets will save costs considerably.

5. Take care of the infrastructure asset data quality.

Reliable and up-to-date infrastructure asset data, compatible with other city infrastructure information, streamlines network building and increases opportunities for co-construction between operators and the city.

6. Communicate.

Awareness should be raised amongst the various sectors of the city on the requirements and possibilities of high-speed telecommunication infrastructure. It is also beneficial to openly inform the local community about the necessity of fiber infrastructure as well as the importance of network development projects

Co-construction can save on network infrastructure construction costs, as excavation account for 60-80% of the costs.

7. Choose the right partners. 

Cities play multiple roles in the future development of telecommunication infrastructure. 5G technology differs from the development of earlier communication generations, so it is important to secure multidisciplinary expertise through strategic partnerships.

8. Safeguard well-functioning market and the adequacy of demand.

Through their own activities, cities promote the versatility of telecommunications services as well as entry of new services into the market. It is important to strive for the same competition in fibre business as in the mobile market.

9. Recognize and predict cyber safety risks.

The stronger the services rely on telecommunication connections, the more crucial it is to consider also cyber security aspects.

Telecommunications in critical places such as hospitals must also be secured during exceptional circumstances. This can be done, for example, through carefully designed service agreements as well as systematic documentation and monitoring.

Another aspect of security is related to data: for example, location information for wires is highly sensitive information that requires extra secure handling and sharing. There is also a constant need to pay close attention to securing maintenance wells on site as well as security classification of employees.

10. Create uniform contract templates and rental practices.

Pay attention to the cost of telecom infrastructure already in land use agreements. In addition to cost allocation, also obligations for e.g. implementing and investing in telecommunications infrastructure in the real estate area may be included in land use agreements.

The right to place communications equipment on roofs and / or facades of buildings could also be included in the rental and other agreement terms on delivery of municipal plots.

+ 1 It’s all about team play!

The most important factor in the development of high-speed telecommunications networks is team play - a seamless and smooth dialogue between municipalities, operators and authorities. Foresight and participation are crucial all the way from land use planning to physical network construction and permit issues, with as little bureaucracy as possible.

“In the era of high-speed communications, telecommunications networks are no longer separate from the city's infrastructure. 5G is actually the fourth industrial revolution in which societal actors are making a big change together as one ecosystem. Therefore, the importance of open dialogue cannot be overemphasized”, says Anssi Savisalo, Business Director at Sitowise 5G Business.

The 5GKIRI project was carried out between October 2018 and March 2019 by a network of Finnish cities: Helsinki, Oulu, Espoo, Kuopio, Lahti, Vantaa, Jyväskylä and Turku. Project was coordinated by Sitowise. The three major Finnish operators Telia, Elisa and DNA as well as hardware manufacturers operating in Finland were also involved. The project was carried out within the context of 5G Momentum, a network led by the Finnish Traffic and Communications Agency Traficom.