RACINE — A demonstration of U.S. Cellular’s 5G network in Racine left Walden III students speechless.
Racine is one of the first Wisconsin cities with 5G capabilities through a partnership with U.S. Cellular, though it will not be widely available until March 6.
U.S. Cellular is also launching 5G in Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh and other smaller cities.
The announcement at the Cesar Chavez Center, 2221 Douglas Ave., on Wednesday included a demonstration, where Mayor Cory Mason, on a 5G-enabled phone, video called a group of students at Walden III Middle and High School.
“So tell me what you’re learning about with STEM today?” Mason asked the group.
“Anybody?” Still no response. “Don’t everybody raise their hands at once,” Mason joked. The group did wave to show they had heard Mason but no amount of technology can improve communication with teenagers.
“Well you’re part of history,” Mason said to wrap up the call. “This is the first 5G call in the City of Racine. Thrilled to do that with the Walden students.”
5G a ‘foundational step’
Mason called the availability of 5G, “the foundational first step” for implementing smart city technologies.
“If we want to go to the next level around mobility, it requires 5G technology. If we want to get the next level of security and safety opportunities that exist with smart cities you need 5G to be able to do that. If you want to do the work that we want to do around sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint you need 5G technology to do that,” Mason said.
Details about how specifically smart cities technologies will be used to administer city services still haven’t been worked out. But another advantage of have 5G available in Racine is it will give the city a competitive edge for new high-tech industries, such as the internet of things, which requires high-speed interconnection.
“It gives us a competitive edge,” said Mason. “If you want to innovate and do that new technology, as a factor in this industry, this is a great place to be.”
But a key issue, according to Mason, is ensuring widespread access, which is why the city plans to have high-speed internet available at city community centers in time for summer sessions this year.
They are also in talks with the Racine Police Department about making wireless high-speed internet available at COP houses as well.
“We need to be intentional about this. If we are intentional about it smart cities should help close some of the community’s inequities. If we’re not mindful about it, it could broaden some of them,” said Mason. “So we want to make sure when this new technology comes to town that we’re making it available broadly, so everyone can enjoy the success of this new technology.”
Last year, Racine was the smallest city to win the Smart Cities Readiness Challenge from the Smart Cities Council, which granted access to expertise and financing for smart technology projects.
Last September, the city hosted Smart September events which explored what smart technology could mean for the community, how it could be implemented and celebrating Racine’s legacy of innovation.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.