New York’s quest to make sure the city’s residents and visitors have access to high-speed internet is set to continue with a moonshot competition to provide low-cost 5G internet to all five of its boroughs.
In January the office of the New York’s Mayor, Bill de Blasio, announced a challenge for companies to get New York City access to 5G internet—the ultra-fast wireless mobile network which is being rolled out slowly around the world. Finalists in the challenge will receive $25,000 to demonstrate their solutions on Governors Island.
Governors Island is reasonably small and in the middle of New York Harbor, therefore providing the right conditions for the challenge, which aims to focus on the environment as well as the technology. The city has asked competitors to take into consideration rising sea levels and future storms, in order to build Wi-Fi infrastructure that is less vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The island is also intended to act as a microcosm for larger islands like Manhattan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Three finalists have already been selected—Neutral Connect Networks, Fiberless Networks, and Edge Fibernet—and all of them work in wireless connectivity. All three will set up 5G networks on Governors Island and the winner will have its connectivity plan made available to all visitors to the island.
“Internet access is now a critical link to economic opportunity,” said James Patchett, New York City Economic Development Corporation president and CEO, in a statement. “This challenge will propel new connectivity solutions into New York City’s ecosystem, both improving the experience at Governors Island and moving the needle on equitable high speed internet access for all New Yorkers.”
In 2016, the United Nations proclaimed internet access as a human right, meaning governments should ensure it’s widely available. In many places the easiest way of doing that is to improve internet for mobile devices, via wireless networks. These have historically been slower than most wired networks, but 5G promises much quicker speeds.
Telecom providers Verizon and AT&T have announced plans to launch 5G networks in the U.S., but neither has stated what kinds of speeds users can expect, although it will be much faster than current 4G LTE mobile networks in use across the U.S. today. In fact, speeds may be so fast that providers will replace wired internet with 5G. Internet service providers would potentially be able to deliver much faster speeds wirelessly through the air than installing expensive infrastructure.