Zipping Along The Mobile highway: Spark Talks 5G

March 21, 2018
2 mins read

The next generation of mobile technology promises super fast speeds to deliver exciting new offerings to Kiwis. Spark’s Colin Brown sits down with PAT PILCHER to discuss 5G, how it will change telecommunications – and when we can expect to see it  in New Zealand.

If 5G is the future, what will it look like? When will it arrive and how hard will it be to put in place? I put these and a bunch of other curly questions to Colin Brown, Spark’s general manager of Networks.

WD: What will 5G offer that 4G/4.5G doesn’t already offer?

CB: 5G is the fifth generation of wireless technology and can be up to 100 times faster than 4G. That’s more than nine times faster than the maximum speeds available to consumers with residential fixed line fibre today, and 90 times faster than today’s most prevalent UFB 100Mbps service.

It uses new bands of radio spectrum with super-fast response times (almost no latency) which allows a full-length movie to download in just a few seconds and a whole host of other applications.

Many people have now heard of concepts like self-driving cars, smart cities, virtual and augmented reality, unleashing the full potential of these concepts will require fast wireless network with a super-fast response time.

5G will deliver significantly faster speeds and more capacity than previous mobile technology and will support the connectivity of multiple devices with very low response times. It will take us from a world of connecting people to each other and the internet to a world of connecting almost everything

WD: 5G isn’t a ratified standard yet, can you explain why that’s significant?

CB: Standards are being finalised and we are seeing 5G chip sets being developed and we expect customer modems to be available later this year and handset devices in 2019.

WD: When can we expect 5G to arrive in NZ?

CB: We have a plan and we’d prefer to get going as soon as possible, but we are reliant on spectrum being cleared so it’s likely from around 2020.   We’ll be working closely with the government on the spectrum requirements we need to bring 5G to New Zealand.

WD: What will a 5G network look like – will it be a shared build like in the US?

CB: It’s likely that all the mobile operators will build their own 5G network. We’re confident the majority of New Zealand can sustain multiple 5G networks and that’s the path we are committed to.  No industry amalgamation was required for the transition from 3G to 4G, and none is required from 4G to 5G.

WD: what sort of things need to happen at a network level for 5G to be a workable solution available throughout New Zealand?

CB: A range of things like

  • Spectrum allocation –  and you would have seen that the Government has released a discussion document on 5G spectrum this week.
  • Upgrades to the core network, concepts like Network Slicing, Network Function Virtualisation, the concept of functions being located closer to the edge of the network to provide the lower latency requirements need to be considered.
  • Transport to the cell edge will require faster and greater bandwidth
  • Densification of the network, the form factor of the mm wavelength devices are much small and therefore we will see smaller cell sites in greater density.  

WD: How do you see 5G being a game changer?

CB: 5G will be the key to allow us to move to unlimited mobile and wireless broadband plans.  With fibre-like speeds it’ll offer seamless connectivity when you are away from fixed connections.

We’ve talked about all the commonly known uses like driver-less cars, remote surgery and virtual reality but experience tells us that some of the coolest innovation will be things we haven’t even thought of today.

Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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