Smart Pole System: From Connectivity to City Services


24 December 2018

Converting legacy street lights into connected intelligent lighting has become part of the ingredients for building smart or connected cities. As the costs for networked street lights also decline, these smart street poles will have positive growth in cities and municipalities across the globe. Research predicts that 89% of street lights will have transitioned to LED, and 42% will be networked to make them smart by the end of 2024[1]. It is also expected that 73 million of connected street light poles will be deployed globally by 2026[2].


Optimizing network infrastructure 

Comba Telecom has delivered smart pole solutions offering fast Return on Investment (ROI) and ongoing operational benefits to operators in South America, who continue to invest significant sums in both expanding 4G coverage and launching LTE-A networks to keep up with the growth in data usage, that may reach about 5.5 GB per user in 2021[3]. Indicated by GSMA report, the region’s aggregate capex will total $47 billion between 2018 and 2020[4].


Comba Telecom developed a camouflaged street pole fully integrated with antennas and remote radio units (RRU) to improve wireless broadband access in the dense urban areas in Brazil. This pole serves as shared infrastructure and collocate services from multiple carriers in a single pole, giving multiple bands for seamless mobile coverage in roadways, streets, and parking lots. By putting up street poles with built-in telecommunication equipment for wireless broadband enhancement and densification, it enables IoT applications for a smarter city.


Reaching the full potential of smart street pole

Today, most cities that install smart street poles or retrofit existing fixtures choose systems that already are equipped with sensor technology or that can be upgraded easily to utilize the advantages of IoT applications. The full benefit of smart street pole is reached when it can act as infrastructure for multiple smart city applications, including public safety through video cameras, traffic management, smart parking, smart navigation, environmental monitoring (emissions, noise), extended Wi-Fi and cellular communications, digital info displays, and much more.


The evolution of connectivity, over 3G, 4G and ultimately 5G data networks, transforms street light poles into smart city data gatherers and multi-functional IoT notes. By capturing a wide range of real-time information – for example, traffic volume, pedestrian footfall, weather, noise – and then plugging that data into an analytics platform, new solutions to old challenges can emerge. Comba smart poles are structured to fulfil these market needs by providing flexible solutions for future network or urban planning from single carrier, multi-carrier, city and municipal governments.


Less energy, more control, more services

Smart street lighting systems can take advantage of renewable energies. It is possible to power lights using natural energy, or even taking advantage of pedestrians walking. These “renewable” street lights are not connected to the urban electricity grid as they are powered by a custom designed battery packs which solar energy and wind power can both charge the battery to power the street light. Other smart street lights can use pressure sensors embedded in the sidewalks near the light poles and connected to micro generators that produce energy depending on the pressure applied. In combination with LED lighting and smart technology such as motion sensors and dimming control, the smart street poles can reduce waste energy by 50-80% which helps cut energy cost, while as much as 40% of a city’s energy budget is consumed by conventional street lighting.


With wireless networks sending valuable data back to the utility, company or infrastructure provider can remotely manage each street light unit through cloud-based software in real-time. Having this in place, almost 80% of malfunctions of street lights can be identified and repaired online without the need to go to the specific location. Both operation expenses and maintenance costs are much lowered.

Going to the citizen level, cities like London, Beijing, and Lancaster in California have already used smart street poles to offer hotspots for WiFi connections or to recharge electric vehicles and mobile devices, improving considerably citizen’s quality of life. Smart pole system can be a backbone for a smart city network. And, of course, scalability in terms of overall network size and upgrades of future applications or functionality should be considered.


[1] South America Smart Street Lighting Market – Size, Trends and Forecasts (2018 – 2024)

[2] From Connected Street Lights to Smart Cities, Forbes, Apr 6, 2018

[3] The Mobile Economy, Latin America and the Caribbean 2017, p.17

[4] The Mobile Economy, Latin America and the Caribbean 2018, p.23



About Marie Ma

Marie Ma is currently the general manager of Comba Telecom Network Systems Limited. Ms. Ma is responsible for overseeing the strategies and development of the new solutions and product marketing. She graduated from Tsinghua University with a master degree in Information & Communications Engineering in 2007 and a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering &Automation in 2004. Ms. Ma has wide experience in product management, technical marketing and business development. She joined the Group in 2007.

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