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Atlanta bids to be designated a ‘Global Smart City for Mobility’

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on February 28, 2014

Atlanta is campaigning to become one of a handful of cities to be designated a Global Smart City for Mobility — a move that it hopes will catapult it among the world’s technology capitals.

A contingent of Atlanta mobility executives and economic development leaders were in Barcelona, Spain, from Feb. 24 to Feb. 27 attending the GSMA Mobile World Congress, the largest mobility convention in the world, attracting more than 70,000 people.

GSMA is finalizing its criteria to name a small group of metro areas — probably beginning with just four cities — that would qualify as Global Smart Cities for Mobility.

Atlanta leaders are mounting a high-level effort to be among the first cities to receive that designation.

“We are trying to position ourselves to be the first city in North America to get the GSMA Smart City for Mobility designation,” said Michael Zeto, an executive with AT&T Mobility who is a co-chair of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Mobility Task Force.

Both Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed have sent letters in support of that designation. So have Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson and Delta Air Lines Inc. CEO Richard Anderson, who also is the 2014 chairman of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

A leading force behind the effort is Ralph de la Vega, CEO of Atlanta-based AT&T Mobility, who also is a co-chair of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Mobility Task Force.

“We are convinced that the Atlanta metro area is a committed leader and a global hub for mobile connectivity,” de la Vega wrote in an email from Barcelona. “As a region, we are passionate about mobility and will work tirelessly to further the public-private relationships that have contributed to Atlanta’s success.”

De la Vega said that for the past 18 months, Atlanta has showcased its strength in the mobility sector at international conferences as well as at a new Atlanta event called “Mobility Live.”

“We have worked very hard the last few years to establish Atlanta as a global hub for mobility connectivity,” he said. “We are honored to be a candidate for the Global Smart City designation.”

Although no announcement has been made, the speculation has been that other cities that likely will be designated in the first round will be Dubai, Shanghai and Barcelona.

Other U.S. cities also are thought to be vying for the designation, including San Francisco and New York.

But Atlanta is making a case that it already is a hub for mobile connectivity. In addition to AT&T, about 70 percent of all financial transactions processed in the United States are handled by companies in Georgia.

Also, several major global content providers are based in Atlanta — such as CNN and the Weather Channel, said Zeto, an entrepreneur who recently joined AT&T as its director of corporate development and mergers-acquisitions.

“GSMA is trying to define the key metrics for a Smart Cities designation. When you look at the indicators, Atlanta winds up well,” Zeto said in a telephone conversation from Barcelona. “We have all these assets, and we can help pull all these assets together into a robust ecosystem.”

Mayor Reed said getting the Global Smart Cities for Mobility designation would continue putting the city on a path as being the center for technology in the Southeast.

“This is essential to Atlanta’s future. It’s the place where serious thinkers want to be,” Reed said. “That would be a big win.”

GSMA is an international association that represents all the 800 mobility providers from around the world as well as suppliers to the industry. Getting recognized by that association as a global hub for mobility would have tangible economic returns for Atlanta.

“From a practical standpoint it can signal to businesses that are thinking about locating or relocating into the Atlanta area that Atlanta has an infrastructure that is world class,” de la Vega wrote in his email. “This potential designation could lead to more business opportunities and even more innovation in Atlanta.”

Although no schedule has been set, it is expected that GSMA will announce its first round of Global Smart Cities for Mobility by late spring or early summer.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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