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Spark explores future connectivity options using 5G mmWave

Thu, 21st Jul 2022
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Spark has carried out New Zealand's first rural trial of 5G millimetre wave (mmWave) technology to showcase the potential benefits of faster 5G data speeds.

The test site has been set up in Mouse Point, North Canterbury, by Spark technology partner Nokia with spectrum loaned from the Ministry of Business Innovation - Employment (MBIE).

The trial achieved a peak speed of 2.4 Gbps at a range of three kilometres and 1.4 Gbps at an extended range of seven kilometres.

Agricultural supply business PGG Wrightson has a store in nearby Culverden, six kilometres south of the test site and is participating in the trial, which will enable 5G connectivity in the running of its rural operations.

“Connectivity for some of our more rural store locations can be a real challenge,” PGG Wrightson CEO Stephen Guerin says.

“We believe that bringing high-speed connectivity into these stores will allow our people to operate more efficiently for our customers.

“For instance, our livestreaming service for livestock auctions, bidr, runs live auctions from saleyards and on-farm.

“This type of new connectivity technology could provide our online customers with high-definition livestreaming with minimal delays of our auctions.

“Our business is looking forward to seeing how Spark's 5G mmWave technology can make a difference.

While 5G networks in Aotearoa currently use frequencies adjacent to 4G, the country will be able to use a higher frequency range in the future, known as mmWave.

5G in this frequency range offers faster 5G connectivity, improved customer experiences and the opportunity to optimise performance.

“mmWave is a future step that will allow us to further deliver on 5G's potential, with increased speeds and significantly more capacity,” Spark technology evolution lead Renee Mateparae says.

“While use cases are still emerging, 5G mmWave will be valuable for business applications such as ultra-HD video streaming, advanced analytics and machine learning, intelligent transport systems, e-health, education and much more.

“We're starting to plan for this future step now by trialling mmWave technology in different scenarios.

“mmWave is likely best suited to areas where a high number of users are concentrated. Places like shopping centres, crowded stadiums, and university campuses could all benefit from the capabilities of mmWave.

“We are already working with the business community to identify and test other cutting edge use cases for 5G mmWave technology, such as in a high-density urban setting, and plan to do more of this over the coming 18 months.

Spark is able to carry out this testing through a loan of mmWave spectrum from MBIE, as well as high-capacity AirScale 5G mmWave equipment from Nokia.

“Together with Spark, we conducted this world leading trial of 5G mmWave technology using our commercial AirScale baseband and mmWave radios,” Nokia Australia and New Zealand chief technology officer Dr Rob Joyce says.

“Achieving faster data speeds for an extended range of up to seven kilometres is a concrete proof point of how 5G evolution can bring a new level of mobile connectivity also for rural areas, as well as enabling exciting new use cases.

“We look forward to supporting Spark in rolling out this technology into their network when the spectrum becomes more widely available.

MBIE says that it hopes to make mmWave spectrum available as soon as practicable, subject to the conclusion of ongoing consultation regarding the spectrum.

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