San Jose drafts 5G contract with AT&T for faster wireless

The million agreement would place small cell devices that bolster the city’s wireless internet network and support the vendor's network for first responders.

San Jose has announced a tentative $5 million deal with telecomm behemoth AT&T that would bolster the city’s wireless internet network through the installation of small cell devices on municipal light poles. 

Small cells are low-powered radio access nodes that can boost short-range wireless signals. They are also the infrastructure for the next generation of wireless technology.

Officials said Monday the technology will improve voice and data capabilities for residents and businesses, while helping San Jose’s low-income communities connect to faster, more reliable internet. 

The agreement still has to be voted on by the City Council at its May 1 meeting. If approved, the project would begin in east and central San Jose, the areas with the highest demand for internet. 


AT&T has described small cell technology as the next step in upgrading infrastructure to handle 5G internet speeds. Small cells are already in use in San Francisco, among other cities

“It’s a far superior path than the politically heavy-handed Federal and State legislation some are pushing,” said Rob Lloyd, San Jose’s chief information officer. “Local governments and carriers can do best when working together on improving processes that support densification while supporting community priorities.”

AT&T says the technology will also be used to support FirstNet, AT&T’s $46 billion, 25-year partnership with the federal government to build a national emergency responder communications network. The network would use the 5G speeds afforded by small cell technologies to expand its reach and improve reliability.

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