ST Engineering Telematics Wireless

Licensed vs. Unlicensed Frequency in Streetlighting – Does it Matter? (Part 1)

Licensed vs. Unlicensed Frequency in Streetlighting – Does it Matter? (Part 1)

Part 1: Overview

“Smart streetlighting” earns that designation mainly because it is networked, allowing it to both send and receive data from a central management system (CMS). With smart (networked) streetlights, utility companies, municipal streetlight managers, DOT’s and other lighting system owners gain much more control over their lights –whether individual luminaires, lights grouped by street or neighborhood, or even the entire grid.

That’s why it is critical that manufacturers of luminaires and streetlight control systems, like us, look at the best ways to ensure their lighting solutions will best meet the needs of the areas in which they are deployed. One of the issues worth debating is whether streetlights should be connected through licensed or unlicensed bands on the Radio Frequency (RF) spectrum.

This three-part blog series examines my take on how these two options differ along with the benefits and potential concerns for each:

Licensed versus unlicensed

What’s the difference between licensed and unlicensed RF frequencies?  The simple answer is that in order to operate on licensed frequencies, an operator must acquire a special license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and no such special license is required when operating on unlicensed frequencies.

However, understanding the implications of selecting one frequency over the other is necessary when selecting the best network for the application. That’s particularly true for critical applications such as emergency services or public street lighting, both of which are essential for public safety.

The key to successfully deploying a networked streetlight control and smart city solution lies in the robustness of the deployed network.  It’s obvious that the more robust the network, the higher the reliability, and more dependable the solution becomes.

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