If you look at L’Aquila from a distance, the city is surrounded by cranes, the signs of one of the worst earthquakes in Italy's history.
Today the city is betting on the use of 5G to build a new future for itself.
The Chinese company ZTE — a leading provider of communication products and services — has chosen L'Aquila to open its first 5G innovation and research centre.
ZTE and the University of L’Aquila are testing the technology to better manage earthquake-related emergencies.
Using 5G, the alert can be sent out at a faster speed.
“We imagine a building that is located close to the epicentre of the earthquake. We are able to intercept the tremor and thanks to 5G technology we can then send an alert to L’Aquila - eight seconds earlier than the actual arrival of the seismic wave” Fabio Graziosi, professor of telecommunications engineering at the University of L’Aquila, told Euronews.
It’s not just about earthquakes. In the smart city of the future, researchers are looking at ways to use this technology to provide services in different fields, including the arts.
L’Aquila’s aim is to become a "Living Lab" where the technology can be used to provide services in different fields. In the ZTE's innovation labm researchers are testing the use of 5G in six sectors, earthquakes, the arts, mobility, health, agriculture, security.
Pierluigi Biondi, the Mayor of L'Aquila, is among those convinced that the city will become a model.
“We have to imagine 5G as the future mainly in terms of services it can provide and its daily use. From this point of view, L’Aquila needs to offer powerful solutions when faced with new requirements that come as a consequence of the earthquake. And by doing so it can offer a protocol that can be replicated,” says Biondi.
But not everyone in L’Aquila supports the research. They fear the potential risks for both the environment and people’s health.
Italian Stop5G Alliance spokesperson, Maurizio Martucci has a different take on the issue. He sees the widespread use of the technology as what he calls a “harmful weapon” and he is determined to bring his battle against 5G to Europe.
“There are so many people who are already sick - who are suffering from exposure to radiation. So we demand that national governments and the European Parliament stop this technology because the use of millimetre waves for 5G hasn't been tested yet and we don’t know what will happen when people are exposed to radiations.”
The Italian government recently voted to strengthen state powers to intervene in the development of 5G services that would apply to non-EU companies. A move that some believe could delay the rollout of 5G mobile services in the country.