NZ’s Spark opens a 5G lab, names launch date

22 Nov 2018

New Zealand incumbent Spark has opened what it says is the country’s first interactive 5G lab in Auckland, with Emirates Team New Zealand being the first partner to use the facility.

In a statement, Spark said it wants to launch a live 5G network on July 1, 2020, that will give the sailing team an edge in its defense of the America's Cup races to be held in July 2021.

Yet, Spark’s 5G launch is reliant on the availability of spectrum, which the operator anticipates will be auctioned by the government in 2019.

Spark managing director Simon Moutter said the lab “marks the first time in New Zealand that a true 5G pre-commercial network will be turned on and available for Kiwi businesses to explore, learn and create products that will define the future of 5G.”

The lab, located in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct, is designed to give Spark’s customers and partners like Emirates Team New Zealand access to a 5G network so they can experiment with live 5G technology.

“Spark is fully committed to helping Emirates Team New Zealand innovate, test and push the boundaries of technology in their quest to defend the cup, and we are thrilled they are the first partner to have jumped on board to start testing the 5G network with us through this facility,” said Moutter. “We’ll be aiming to support real-time analytics via the 5G network to help make the boat go faster.”

He said Spark will base its engineers at the lab to offer technical support to its customers and partners developing products for 5G. It will also host technologies that showcase potential 5G use cases such as robotics, virtual reality, facial recognition, Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities, emergency services drones and driverless cars.

Grant Dalton, CEO of Emirates Team New Zealand, said access to a 5G network will play a vital role in helping them defend the 2021 America’s Cup.

“We do not necessarily know the full extent of these opportunities [delivered by 5G] yet, but we know they are going to make a huge difference to the race,” he said.

Dan Bernasconi, head of design at Emirates Team New Zealand, said that in order to win the cup in 2021 they needed to win the innovation race first.

Access to the 5G network and its reduced latency and higher bandwidth means that through the on-water testing stage the Emirates Team New Zealand designers back at base will be able to get data and analytics in real-time.

“In Bermuda our designers had to spend hundreds of hours out on the water on chase boats close to the yacht in order to get data to then upload and analyze once they were back on shore. From there, they would look at what needed to be done for the next test day,” he said.

“With 5G our design-thinking can evolve faster, allowing us to explore more design options and buy us more of one of the most precious commodities in the America’s Cup – time. This could be a game changer for us.”

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