Streetlights doubling as LTE towers in Los Angeles

LED streetlights with wireless small cells are being deployed in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles streetlights cell towers

To improve mobile network performance, the city of Los Angeles is combining LED street lighting with LTE small cells.

The city will install a number of smart light poles that will not only provide bright, state-of-the-art LED street lighting, but also LTE functionality.


"Los Angeles is the world's first city to deploy Philips' SmartPole street lighting with fully built in 4G LTE wireless technology," Ericsson said in a press release. Ericsson makes the teleco radios for the light poles; Philips makes the lights.

The poles would be suitable for IoT applications too, Ericsson says.


Although the Los Angeles deployment is geared towards existing LTE small cells, 5G is just around the corner and is expected to begin service in 2020.

Swaths of 5G will likely use millimeter spectrum, which won't travel as far as today's UHF and microwaves, thus another reason to exploit street furniture—there may well be a need for a large numbers of cells.

It will be more than required for the same distance-coverage today—all within a relatively small geographic area.

The Philips/Ericsson project in Los Angeles could lay the groundwork for that.

Connected street lighting

"LA has more street lights and poles than any other city in America," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is quoted as saying in the Ericsson press release.

So, a good place to start.

Los Angeles already has a relationship with Philips for street lighting. Earlier this year, Philips announced that Los Angeles would be the first city in the world to use a variant of its connected cloud- and mobile-based lighting management system called CityTouch.

In that variant, Philips' network nodes connect directly to each light. The light can be from any manufacturer.

"This extends the life of legacy and LED systems alike, enabling them to become connected light points," Philips says in its press release.

In other words, it has already started, or it plans to build out connected light pole infrastructure in Los Angeles. 

Melting snow

LED street lighting has been welcomed with mixed levels of rapture when previously introduced in American cities.

While some people prefer the high-kelvin white light to the orange-glow of classic street lighting supplied by high-pressure sodium, there have been problems with traffic lights using the technology in winter.

In 2009, it was discovered that LED traffic lights didn't melt snow when cities such as Green Bay, Wisconsin, installed the supposedly money-saving street lights.

"The bulbs don't burn hot enough to melt snow and can become crusted over in a storm," Digital Trends reported at the time.

The solution then was to have red-faced city managers either ensure crews were on hand to wipe the lights, or hurriedly install expensive heating elements to solve the problem.

Bad driving 

One hopes the same kinds of unforeseen issues don't trip-up this LED street lighting project.

With El Niño and the rainy season approaching here in LA, at least we won't have to worry about the notoriously terrible local drivers careening into the poles in the middle of a wet night and taking out the network.

The lights are bright LEDs. Angelino drivers should be able to avoid them.

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