Today, Spark and Emirates Team New Zealand opened New Zealand’s first interactive 5G test lab by starting an official countdown to Spark’s proposed 5G network launch date. Spark aims to have New Zealand’s first 5G network live on the Auckland Harbour by 1 July 2020 for Emirates Team New Zealand to use as part of its preparation to defend the America’s Cup.The lab opening saw both partners talk for the first time about their plans for Spark’s 5G technology and how they will use it to give Emirates Team New Zealand an edge in its defence of the 36th America’s Cup in 2021.
“Today is an important day on the roadmap to the next generation of mobile technology,” said Spark Managing Director, Simon Moutter.
“It 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 Spark 5G Lab is primarily designed to give New Zealand companies – our customers and partners - easy access to a 5G network so they can experiment with live 5G technology. We want to be the easiest company to work with, with the most collaborative team, and with the best network. We are basing some of our engineers at the lab and will have technical support and a working space available for our customers and partners to come in and collaborate with us on co-creating the 5G future.”
With digital technology being seen as key to the America's Cup, Emirates Team New Zealand says the partnership is an important part of their planning and strategy.
“The relationship between Emirates Team New Zealand and Spark will give us an opportunity to have unrestricted access to a 5G network that will help us defend the America’s Cup in 2021,” said CEO of Emirates Team New Zealand, Grant Dalton.
“We do not necessarily know the full extent of these opportunities yet, but we know they are going to make a huge difference to the race.”
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.
“The America’s Cup is as much a technology race as it is a yacht race. We know the scope for 5G technology to help make the boat go faster is significant.”
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.
“This will make a huge difference. 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 analyse once they were back on shore. From there, they would look at what needed to be done for the next test day.
“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,” said Bernasconi.
The Spark 5G Lab has a dual purpose. It’s primarily designed to be a collaboration space for New Zealand innovators, entrepreneurs and companies like Emirates Team New Zealand to have early access to 5G, so they can test and develop products and experiences that will define the future. The lab will also host technologies that showcase some of the possibilities and benefits of 5G such as robotics, virtual reality, facial recognition, Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities, emergency services drones and driverless cars.
“We believe that most of the amazing things you can do with 5G are yet to be invented, so it is crucial we collaborate with businesses like Emirates Team New Zealand to start co-creating the future of 5G,” said Moutter.
“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.”
Tina Symmans, the Chair of Americas Cup Event Ltd, said that 5G would help provide a spectator experience that New Zealand has never seen before.
“Imagine being able to sit on your sofa and experience being ‘on the boat’ through virtual reality or live streaming the online race data while you are standing on North Head with thousands of the other spectators – watching the boats in action. We could have driverless cars taking people around the cup village, ensure traffic management and safety is catered for through smart city connectivity, even down to sensors telling us when rubbish bins are full and where to park,” said Symmans.
Spark 5G Lab is located in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct, near the America’s Cup team bases.