On The Radar
How will cities and their citizens make clear choices about what they want from urban air mobility (UAM) if no one asks them about it? The answer, says industry group Civata Global, is that they won’t and that a structured process of public engagement from local authorities, communities, regulators, and mobile network operators is urgently needed.
Mobile network operators? Yes, the communications infrastructure and service providers have skin in the game, too, according to Civata Global, which has just published a white paper with mobile communications trade association GSMA entitled The Role of Mobile Network Operators in the Urban Air Mobility Ecosystem.
One of the paper’s core themes is that UAM is just one facet of the future connectivity needs of so-called "Smart Cities." Data consumption needs in hotspots like airports and the new vertiports from which eVTOL aircraft will operate need to be carefully planned, and, for now, this would seem to be low on the industry’s to-do list.
By 2050, says Civata Global, around 100 cities worldwide will have autonomous air vehicles flying passengers above their crowded streets. In each city, an average of 1,000 eVTOL air taxis can be expected and must be planned for.
“Policymakers, regulators, and local authorities are also playing a crucial role in unlocking the potential of 5G [communications technology] and the networks of the future,” say the paper’s authors. “It is very important to find the right balance between incentivizing competition and keeping prices accessible for consumers and supporting industry investment in next-generation infrastructure.”
The groups present a list of the following requirements for the latest communications technology to be part of the UAM solution:
- Making additional affordable [network] spectrum available
- Facilitating access to site locations
- Enabling small cell development
- Facilitating the deployment of backhaul (direct wireless connections support a Wi-Fi system)
- Permitting the freedom to establish network sharing agreements
- Harmonizing power density limits
- Providing financial support for development
- Providing regulatory flexibility for business-to-business partnerships
None of these challenges will fix themselves. Stakeholders from across communities will need to be on board and feel able to state their needs. That is the call to action from Civata Global and GSMA.