The city of San Jose announced Monday that it has reached a tentative agreement with AT&T to install a network of 170 small cells on lampposts across the city by the end of the year to improve wireless coverage.

City officials say the small cells will offer enhanced voice and data capacity for residents and businesses. The technology is also expected to fortify the FirstNet emergency responder communications network, said Dolan Beckel, San Jose's director of civic innovation and digital strategy.

"It just ensures that there's more capacity for our emergency responders," he said. "Right now, as the city's emergency responders use FirstNet, they're running on the existing network we all use. What we're doing is we're making the swimming pool bigger in the event that the emergency responders need it."

The infrastructure being deployed would pave the way for next-generation mobile experiences, such as 5G mobile broadband technology, Beckel said.

"The number of connected devices, and with that, the amount of data over our communications network is growing exponentially," he said. "And the amount of data that is going to be communicated between those devices ... most of it will be covered over the wireless LTE network."

The city expects to receive a total of $5 million in lease revenue over the next 15 years from AT&T for its "digital inclusion projects," as part of an effort to offer affordable broadband Internet service to low-income residents. The specifics of that plan have not yet been defined, said David Low, a spokesman for Mayor Sam Liccardo.

To sweeten the deal, AT&T, the second-biggest wireless carrier in the country after Verizon, has agreed to remit a portion of its required permit fees upfront and give the city a $1 million grant to accelerate the deployment.

Enhancing the city's broadband infrastructure service is one component of Liccardo's Smart City Vision. The initiative was launched two years ago with the goal of providing San Jose residents access to affordable and high-quality Internet service.

The San Jose City Council will likely discuss these points when it takes up the proposal at its May 1 meeting.

(c)2018 The Cupertino Courier (San Jose, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.