Mobile phone operators worldwide are struggling to keep pace with growing demand for mobile data. Philips and Ericsson plan to incorporate mobile phone antennas into energy-efficient LED street lights that combine city street lighting with mobile phone infrastructure in parts of cities to increase network coverage.
Mobile devices with bigger, sharper screens and more movies, TV shows and videos available online are putting an increased strain on carriers’ networks. European technology companies Philips and Ericsson unveiled a solution to this problem at the Mobile World Congress 2014, an annual event which showcases the latest devices, accessories and trends in the mobile industry.
By tapping into cities’ streetlights, operators will be able to expand their networks in urban areas. Philips and Ericsson say their plan offers cash-strapped city governments a new source of income in the form of payments from carriers that want to rent out space on the streetlights.
"This is the best way to strengthen mobile networks," Hans Vestberg, Ericsson’s chief executive, said in an interview. "We can’t get any big sites for mobile equipment anymore. This allows us to reuse existing infrastructure."
The two companies have been working with Verizon Wireless on a pilot project in the United States over the past year. Philips and Ericsson now want to roll the project out globally and are in talks with cities in the United States and Europe about how to modify the streetlights to meet local needs.