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How New York City will make 5G accessible and affordable

The director of tech initiative NYCx believes public-private partnerships are key to delivering the next generation of wireless technology.

The world's fastest wireless data network is coming soon to the world's fastest city.

In 2018, New York City asked three companies—Neutral Connect Networks, Fiberless Networks, and Edge Fibernet—to experiment with 5G on Governors Island Park. Over months of testing a diverse spectrum of technologies, city officials have learned that deploying 5G will be challenging, but the benefits are significant.

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The 5G test is a part of the city's NYCx moonshot challenge program that began in late-2017 and ran through much of 2018. The initiative encourages collaboration between public officials, technology firms, academics and nonprofits. Governors Island Park is situated on a small island between Manhattan and Brooklyn. The island's rolling hills and historic monuments make it an ideal testing ground for next-gen wireless tech, said Jeremy Goldberg, the city's deputy CTO and the managing director of NYCx.

The NYCx team looked at Governors Island to learn about the constraints of connectivity, and as a testbed for several use cases, said Goldberg. To understand how 5G could benefit New Yorkers the city wanted to stress- test the network, clock upload and download speeds, and tally the number of people that can access the network at any given point and time.

The 5G challenge is part of the city's broader digital transformation strategy designed to encourage "growth, equity, sustainability, and resilience," said Goldberg. The CTO's department is focused on keeping all New Yorkers at the center of technology. He emphasized that to reach its "transformative" potential 5G needs to be affordable, accessible and practical for all New Yorkers.

City officials hope the NYCx connectivity challenge will encourage entrepreneurship and serve as "a model for learning and for insights not just for the city's purposes ... but for entrepreneurs, for academics, for nonprofits and others that are developing really unique AR and VR applications, internet of things solutions, smart sensing and other [technologies]."