6 ways smart cities use telecommunications to stay competitive

For many, telecommunications represents a means to today's connected lifestyles – providing access to movies, television, the Internet and to each other.

But state-of-the-art telecommunications are also vital to a city's economic health and well-being. Banks rely on it to process transactions. Online retailers use it to receive and acknowledge orders. Cloud computing data centers require it to communicate with thousands or even millions of computers.

In other words, in the daily hum of commerce and industry that keeps cities viable, telecommunications plays a huge role. Here are just six of many, many examples:

  • Creating jobs. A 2010 Communications Workers of America study found that every $5 billion investment in broadband creates 100,000 direct jobs plus another 150,000 “spinoff” positions.

  • Helping people boost their professional skills. Expanded access to broadband givespeople better access to online professionaltraining programs, online tertiary educationand city employment services.

  • Increasing business access to the global economy. A smart telecommunicationsnetwork allows local businesses to gain accessto national and international markets, and forrural areas to connect to the world economy.

  • Enhancing mobility. All over the world, mobile apps are helping people plan their routes, make better use of mass transit, and otherwise travel with greater convenience and speed and less congestion and pollution.

  • Enabling telecommuting. Fast, reliable Internet access enables telecommuting, creating a more flexible and satisfying lifestyle while improving productivity.

  • Attracting business and investment. Broadband and high-speed Internet access are no longer a convenience, they are an economic and business requirement. Cities with superior telecommunications have an edge when courting business investment. This advantage was captured in a stunning 2011 study by the World Bank that found that GDP rises 1.3% for every 10% increase in broadband penetration. Similar effects have been found for mobile broadband.

In the Smart Cities Readiness Guide, telecom experts outline the telecommunications framework that modern cities will require to stay competitive. But that does not imply that a city needs to build out high-speed access at its own expense. In most parts of the world, broadband access is provided by the private sector. Elsewhere, public-private partnerships play a role.

Even so, a city can provide valuable leadership, helpful incentives and encouraging policies that go a long way to ensuring that residents and businesses have the access they need. Download the Readiness Guide for expert advice on steps your city can take toward an advanced telecommunications infrastructure and to read success stories from cities that are already reaping the benefits.