The telco's critical role in smart cities

Source: Smart Cities World

Dimitrios Spiliopoulos, O2, shares his insights on how telcos and cities can better work together.

SCW: Where do the revenue opportunities lie for operators in smart cities?

DS: It is becoming a necessity for almost every city to start exploring and then deploying smart city applications in order to solve some of their biggest problems. Of course, this means that operators can play a critical role in these projects.

 The revenue opportunities are plenty for operators and I would categorise them in three pillars:

  • Connectivity: Operators can collaborate with local councils and enterprises in order to improve connectivity where necessary and provide a full variety of networks such as 4G, wi-fi, fibre but also very soon 5G and the low power wide area networks (LPWAN) such as LTE-M and NB-IoT.

    Moreover, operators can help manufacturers of smart city devices to connect their products in a secure and reliable way, but also help them access the smart city market.

  • Data: Operators own huge amounts of data that could be useful for cities and enterprises. There are very few operators, like O2, that are able to analyse the data from the mobile network and other sources, anonymise it and aggregate it in order to help city stakeholders understand how citizens are moving, where and when.

    The insights from this data are really valuable and can be a great revenue stream for operators. The magic is when this data is combined with other sources such as IoT sensors and cameras.

  • Partnerships: Through strong partnerships, operators can provide end-to-end solutions to the cities and help them solve problems around transportation, healthcare, security, air pollution, utilities and more. The revenue models in this case are plenty and we have just started scratching the surface of this.

SCW: Will 5G create even more opportunities and what might these be?

DS: 5G is a very important enabler of a smart city and operators have started exploring the opportunities very seriously. 5G will help cities deploy applications that couldn’t be deployed before due to limited connectivity.


5G will help cities deploy applications that couldn’t be deployed before due to limited connectivity.


If operators collaborate well with smart city solution providers to build end-to-end solutions and also help them access the cities, this can create significant revenues for operators.

The main use cases that could be benefited by 5G in a city are transportation through autonomous vehicles (initially buses and trains), security through real-time video analytics as well as healthcare through remote healthcare and supporting elders.

SCW: What are the challenges/obstacles to achieving a return on investment (ROI) in smart city projects?

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