A Conversation With JMA Wireless & Tucson CIO Collin Boyce

On Tuesday, May 11, Collin Boyce, Chief Information Officer for the City of Tucson, Arizona, joined Toussant Won, Senior Systems Engineer at JMA Wireless, and Melissa Ashurst, Vice President of Emerging Markets at JMA Wireless, in a discussion about how virtualized private wireless networks are helping to close the digital divide as part of this year’s Fierce Wireless Private Wireless Networks Summit.

As highlighted during the panel, the City of Tucson is using JMA’s software-based XRAN solution to bring free, public internet access to underserved communities and to lay the foundation to become a world-class connected city. Tucson’s carrier-grade network will offer greater security, reliability, and scalability, spanning square mileage—indoor and outdoor—not possible with Wi-Fi.

The discussion showcased how Tucson is quickly becoming a model for other cities seeking to advance digital equity and enable the smart city applications of the future. Key takeaways from the panel are below: 

  • Tackling The Digital Divide In Tucson And Beyond
    • “We started to plan this project with: how do we get vendors in, how do we coordinate everything we need to do, how do we make a meaningful impact in this community? And what we realized is that we went from 7,000 access points to cover less than 20 square miles, to covering right over 30-something-square miles with only 40 locations and the same budget.” – Collin Boyce, CIO for the City of Tucson
    • “This is perhaps the cheapest deployment and the easiest deployment that we could do to provide wireless.” – Collin Boyce, CIO for the City of Tucson
    • “Today we’re helping right around 1,000 people and the goal is to re-advertise to see if we can double those numbers and get more people connected. And not only is the solution doing that but it’s also helping fuel our smart city initiative.” – Collin Boyce, CIO for the City of Tucson
    • “The advantage is we’re about to connect 150 traffic signals and be able to optimize them; we’re about to use cameras to detect accidents. It’s something you can easily do to enhance what you’re doing in your city at a very low cost.”- Collin Boyce, CIO for the City of Tucson
    • “Eventually we’ll get to the point where it’s not a matter of ‘if your city needs this,’ it’s ‘we absolutely understand, this is now like a utility’. We have to have this.” – JMA’s Toussant Won

  • CBRS As The Best Alternative To Wi-Fi
    • “Why is traditional Wi-Fi not super effective? I go back to three separate items that are recurring themes on why Wi-Fi really doesn’t work as well: it’s coverage, it’s cost, and it’s control.” “Because CBRS has better range, you can now provide a much better coverage footprint and a much lower cost.” – JMA’s Toussant Won
    • “A lot of the time people think about a network and then once that network has exceeded its usefulness you have to replace the entire network. The control piece really comes in because now you’re future-proof, because now you can transition from a 4G to a 5G network without actually changing any of the equipment. You have a system that you’ve purchased and now you can grow into.” – JMA’s Toussant Won

  • Flexibility For Cities
    • “Going into the future, I think one of the great things about what JMA is doing is the fact that we’re software-based. So when it’s time to go 5G and you don’t have money coming from the government to go out and make those major capital investments again, making that investment in the right solution upfront I think becomes really important to the longevity of these networks with local communities.” – JMA’s Melissa Ashurst
    • “Going forward, the software that you put on these approved commercial off-the-shelf servers will become a liberation for people who want to deploy private LTE networks.” – JMA’s Toussant Won

  • Innovation And Economic Development Opportunities
    • “We are able to provide solutions for the digital divide; we are able to fuel our smart city initiative, we are able to help reduce the cost for the city going forward, but now it’s the mindset of ‘this is an innovation that is kind of new’, and businesses are now seeing the city of Tucson as being this innovative city that is doing stuff that has never been done before. And that is driving now business to the city.” – Collin Boyce, CIO for the City of Tucson
    • “People now know about Tucson, and we’re doing something that is ambitious.” – Collin Boyce, CIO for the City of Tucson