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The telecommunications company’s tribe lead for technology evolution Renee Mateparae was in Dunedin on Monday as part of an Institute of Directors event to talk to businesses about how they can best make use of the new network.
Dunedin was the third city to get the Spark rollout of 5G about two weeks ago in an event where people could use 5G-capable cellphones to look at augmented reality experiences of art murals around the city.
That event was carried out in collaboration with local company Animated Research Ltd.
"It can be quite hard to get your head around what it can and can’t do," Ms Mateparae said of the 5G network.
She used the example of Spark’s partnership with Emirates Team New Zealand and the speed of 5G allowing the designers to follow how the boat was operating in real time.
The America’s Cup was a "technology race, not a boat race".
There were "a huge number of sensors on the boat detecting exactly how it’s moving through the water and performing".
The data was then streamed back to base in real time, "so that their designers can be working on their next iteration of the boat in real time".
There was an element of the unknown with 5G because it was still unclear what new services or ideas would come of it, Ms Mateparae said.
The idea of Uber did not come to fruition until 4G technology was in wide use and businesses now had a chance to think differently about the problems they faced.
"It’s about understanding what your business problems are and then looking at what others are doing around the world and around New Zealand to solve their problems that you might be able to apply to yours."
She said 5G "changed the game" at three key levels compared with 4G.
Firstly, the speed went from about 100 megabytes per second to a gigabyte (1000 megabytes), making high-resolution 4K videos easy to stream, for example.
The second part was around latency and reliability, Ms Mateparae said. Latency referred to the return trip of a piece of information and 5G made that trip so fast people would be able to observe analytics at exactly the moment they were occurring.
Lastly, the number of devices that could be connected increased from between 10,000 and 100,000 devices per square kilometre to about one million.
That enabled "smart campuses" with things such as bins which told users when they were full and smart lights which turned on and off depending on whether someone was in the room.
Many people in telecommunications believed 5G uptake would happen faster than it had for 4G, Ms Mateparae said.
"Go for it Dunedin. You’ve got 5G — see what it can do."
There is no surcharge for the faster, smarter mobile network technology, but customers will need a 5G phone to connect to it, such as one of the handsets from Apple’s new iPhone 12 range (starting from $1349), or one of the latest models in Samsung’s Galaxy Note, S20 or Fold series.
Vodafone has launched 5G in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.
The telco claims five times Spark’s 5G coverage (by population) at this point, and says a Dunedin launch is pending.