AT&T, Developer Plan to Bring Smart City to D.C. Development

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AT&T and JBG Smith, a mixed-use property developer, have entered into a letter of intent to provide smart city amenities to the neighborhoods of Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard, known collectively as National Landing, near the center of the Washington, D.C., metro area, according to a press release.

 The first network infrastructure deployments are planned for the first half of 2022, and will expand with development of the community.

The AT&T agreement is the next step for JBG Smith, which spent $25.3 million on four Priority Access Licenses (PAL) totaling 40 megahertz in Arlington and three PALs (30 megahertz) in Alexandria in the FCC Citizens Broadband Radio Service last fall. The licenses span more than 16.2 million square feet in National Landing and Potomac Yard, where JBG Smith is the largest holder of existing and developable real estate. 

“JBG Smith recognized that the FCC’s CBRS spectrum auction was an opportunity to align National Landing with the needs of cutting-edge tenants, while significantly enhancing our broader smart city and digital placemaking plans throughout the neighborhood,” said Evan Regan-Levine, EVP Strategic Innovation and Research.

National Landing is home to Amazon’s 4.8 million-square-foot headquarters (HQ2) and the forthcoming billion-dollar Virginia Tech Innovation Campus. In between is a space with a diverse array of offices, apartments, retail and open space that is the size of downtown Austin, TX. Much of it is controlled by JBG Smith.

“As real estate owners, we looked at these unbelievable anchors that are also next to the Pentagon and Capitol Hill, and how we can bring more enhancements into this market to benefit the kinds of innovative high growth companies that are going to scale. And that’s where we started looking at connectivity investments,” Regan-Levine told Inside Towers.

JBG Smith wanted to own the spectrum, not only to attract carriers to the area, but also to reserve some of the spectrum for unique private networking applications. 

“So, if we want to attract a major technology company to the market that could actually test any of their IoT devices or anything that they’re doing that demands wireless connectivity, they can do it on the spectrum that we’re reserving,” Regan-Levine said.

The collaboration, he added, should further enhance the environment for innovators that are drawn to the neighborhood’s walkable proximity to Amazon, Virginia Tech, the Pentagon, Boeing’s East Coast headquarters, and Reagan National Airport. 

The push for enhanced technology goes beyond the corporate office space, according to Regan-Levine. JBG is interested in attracting the workers in those headquarters to live in the residential areas, which means delivering their work networks inside their units.

“I want to be able to bring connectivity that’s redundant inside their apartments, and so we want to make it a better residential environment,” he said. “And it’s not just about the connectivity. It’s also about the digital experience layer that rides on it, because we want to make National Landing a great place to live. That happens on next generation networks and you need carrier partners to build it.”

 JBG Smith has a long track record as a private equity investor and developer in Washington, D.C., basically investing in underutilized neighborhoods that have great fundamental transit connectivity access to talent, according to Regan-Levine.

JBG Smith attracted Amazon and Virginia Tech to National Landing, but for all of the people that live there, it is known as an area without a “soul,” he said. The firm also needs to bring in retail, green space, music, restaurants and culture, he added.

“We have to have retail that has great visibility that’s engaged with the street,” Regan-Levine said. “We need to have buildings that work, but then we find the best restaurants, Michelin star chefs and the latest up and coming coffee shops. Amenities that are going to make it a great place to live.”

Hand in hand with these amenities, the development of 5G, AI, cloud and edge technologies is helping usher in the next level of how technology can improve lives, according Mo Katibeh, who leads AT&T’s Network Infrastructure and Build.

National Landing will be AT&T’s first real world smart city deployment. Previously, it was involved with the Dallas Innovation Alliance’s Smart Cities Living Lab, which is a four-block corridor in downtown Dallas that houses several integrated smart city projects.

“Together with JBG Smith, we intend to build a true smart city from the ground up that will allow future innovators to use AT&T’s network to unlock new capabilities through city-wide edge solutions that can serve specific business locations and everyday users at home or on the go. This includes enabling immersive virtual and augmented reality and the massive IoT connections that will become a hallmark of National Landing as the most connected city in the country.”

By J. Sharpe Smith, Inside Towers Technology Editor

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