How tower companies can protect critical infrastructure through PPP programs?

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What are the challenges of critical infrastructure? How can the PPP program accelerate infrastructure investment? Sample ongoing activities.
How tower companies can protect critical infrastructure through PPP programs? | TeckNexus
How tower companies can protect critical infrastructure through PPP programs?
An Interview with Ravi Puvvala, VP Strategic Accounts, and Partnerships at HARMAN Automotive



What are the challenges of critical infrastructure?

When we think about infrastructure, in any part of the world, there are three classifications of companies. They are 

  • Mobile network operators
  • Tower operators
  • Road operators

There are a lot of common infrastructure functionalities across all three categories of the companies. The common functionalities include any type of wireless infrastructure, which is a base station, a repeater, or a back-end connectivity network. And sometimes, the real estate is shared between all of the three entities. But they have different sets of goals, and this is where we are seeing critical issues in terms of how to make progress. Because, you know, each of these categories of companies, are looking to monetize their investment. And at times they collide with the other type of companies who are trying to protect their infrastructure to provide critical functionalities, like traffic lights, which is part of the road operators’ infrastructure. 

The tower operators are providing the real estate space so that the mobile operators can include their base stations and transmission towers, but the mobile operators are leveraging both the real estate of the road operator or the tower operator to run a multi-billion dollar business. So in all of this, what we really foresee is a lack of a business model on how we can leverage infrastructure through public-private partnerships.



What are PPP programs and how does it accelerate infrastructure investment? 

If we look at roadmaps from the government, the governments are essentially having a 20-year plan. And it will take a State Department’s of transportation counties and cities, truly 20 years to deploy critical infrastructure. 

For us to accelerate 5G into every part of the country, we need collaboration between public entities and private entities. And, thanks to President Biden, there’s a $1.2 trillion bill to improve the critical infrastructure, but that needs to trickle down to how the funding goes into not just at a city or a county level, but more at the smart state level. 

This is where a coalition of partnerships is required, where everybody can contribute their technology, the resources, and most importantly building a business case in terms of what problems that they are trying to solve for the local state. And at the end of the day, it should be a zero-sum game to the state in return, where a business model all of these entities can share the revenue.



What are the Use Cases and related problems that we should be solving?

From the World of transportation when we look at smart transportation and how we are building smart roads, most of the traffic on these roads is towards commercial vehicle freight. They occupy 90% of the vehicle capacity on the road and there is a need to provide a safe infrastructure to these companies. When we envision how should be smart transportation look like we are seeing many states are trying to deploy automated freight trucking. If we can provide a network and infrastructure not just for trucking companies, but we can dedicate certain lanes for automated vehicles. 

When we look at the technology at a particular intersection, there are a lot of ways we can provide safety for vulnerable road users. These could be bicyclists, two-wheelers, who have to share the road where all types of vehicles and trucks.  We are really hoping that the infrastructure bill will improve and provide a framework. But what is also concerning is that there are many cybersecurity problems that we are worried about. And there is a growing threat in terms of potential attacks on critical infrastructure. 

So, we are really looking at the type of use cases ranging from automated vehicles, infrastructure for automated vehicles, and also building a framework where we can provide security to the critical infrastructure. In short, we are looking at a combination of advanced networking, as well as cybersecurity as a framework to provide a plethora of use cases that come out of it.



What are the ongoing use cases and activities in the United States?


USDOT funded projects to build dedicated lanes from downtown Detroit to Ann Arbor

In the state of Michigan, there are a lot of federally funded projects that are being deployed, especially a project that allows building a dedicated lane for autonomous vehicles, which would go from downtown Detroit to Ann Arbor. 

There are many companies, including the company that came out of Google’s Sidewalk Labs, CAVNUEthey work with the local order volumes, especially the big three. Also, the state DOD is to provide an infrastructure where we can deploy these autonomous vehicles through dedicated lanes, but also have the site infrastructure to be able to monitor if these vehicles are performing in a safe manner. Similar efforts are going on with other states.


Austin, Texas Public Infrastructure Network Nodes through private companies

The city of Austin, for many reasons, is attracting a lot of manufacturing capacity from companies like Samsung, and also from auto OEMs, like Tesla. Tesla is also moving their headquarters to Austin. And that’s also driving a lot of the public, private companies to come up with public-private partnerships on how they can improve the infrastructure. 

There’s an institute called autonomy Institute in Austin, where they’re trying to deploy public infrastructure network nodes. This is sort of a concept on how to build a smart tower or a smart pole. So if you can imagine a pole and every section of the pole that trying to build a technology that can be contributed to your partner. 

So just to give you an example of what a smart pole could look like, the bottom of the pole could be an air D server, and then the next portion of the pole could be a Wi-Fi access point. And then the next portion of the pole could be a small cell integrated with 5G, and then the next portion of the pole could be your distributed antennas, or technology that can improve smart lightning. So essentially, what they’re trying to build is a pole, where multiple of these technologies are integrated, and make it as a blueprint for a sort of smart poles posts that can be deployed not just on streets, arterial roads, but also on highways. 

So this is an example of how public-private partnerships can come together to build smart infrastructure network nodes. This in return to be able to have the rights to access to data or be able to provide mechanisms to safely navigate both autonomous vehicles as well as nonautonomous vehicles on the same on, you know, on the same highways.


Arizona through Smart State efforts

One of the things noted from the last decade of efforts through Smart City programs is that it was taking a lot of time for startups or technology companies to engage at a city level. On average, the engagement lifetime could be sometimes four years or even longer than that, which was a very time-consuming effort. 

What Arizona has been able to achieve is that they are able to collect many cities, many counties under one umbrella called a smart state. This initiative is led by an individual named Dominic Papa, who is able to collect all of the counties to go through a single procurement process. They’re setting an example of how the state should be focusing on deploying the infrastructure throughout the region. 

Every state in the country has its top use cases that they care about e.g. if we take the case of Texas, they care a lot about the taxes. If we talk about the border states like Arizona there’s a lot of freight that’s going across the borders, so they need to ensure there is safe freight trucking that’s going between the borders.

In Arizona, we have also seen companies like Waymo that are very advanced in deploying autonomous vehicles. The legislation allows them to start experimenting in the state of Arizona. So, Arizona has become a real hub of attracting many innovative technology companies due to weather, due to very sophisticated highway systems, and also the driver mechanism where the state is fronting a lot of the technology validation, building a blueprint, and providing an avenue to navigate the funding between all the counties in the state.

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Ravi Puvvala

VP of Strategic Accounts & Partnerships in the Connectivity Business Unit at Harman

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