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Vodafone testing live 5G network in Auckland

30 Aug 2019
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Vodafone has finished five 5G site upgrades and it’s now in the network testing phases as the company gears up for its 5G launch in December.

The five 5G sites are located around Auckland’s Mangere, and feature Nokia technology such as 5G-enabled antennas. These antennas will be able to deliver faster speeds and lower latency for Kiwis.

Vodafone describes 5G as a near real-time network that can offer significantly lower latency of <20 milliseconds (ms) for some consumer applications like gaming, and <5ms for ultra-low latency applications like smart factories.

Vodafone New Zealand technology director Tony Baird says the five 5G sites are only just the beginning.

“We’re going to have at least 100 cellsites upgraded by December when we switch on our 5G network for customers to access. We’re working hard to upgrade existing cellsites in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown, which includes extensive testing by our engineers to ensure we’re offering optimum connectivity for our customers at time of launch.”

The 100 cellsites on the upgrade list include mobile towers in popular and high-traffic locations like airports, business districts, shopping centres, and event centres.

“We want as many Kiwis as possible to access our 5G network when we switch it on, so we’re focusing our initial rollout on high-density urban areas in town centres,” says Baird.

“As part of the 5G testing, we are checking network connectivity and speeds – and we’re confident Kiwis will be impressed by the faster speeds and lower latency that 5G offers.”

Baird further explains how 5G will work on the 3.5GHz frequency band.

“When we launch, we will be leveraging our existing 56 MHz of spectrum, so the number of Kiwis who will able to try 5G out for themselves will be significant.”

“As part of our network upgrades, we’re also upgrading 400 existing 4G mobile sites to be 4.5G, which will add additional capability of our customers.”

Baird adds that 5G will be a driving force behind the next internet of things (IoT) evolution.

“[It] will enable hyper-connectivity between machines, smart devices and people. The greater control offered to devices powered by the faster transition speeds and lower latency that 5G offers, complemented by advances in battery life, will mean that Kiwi businesses can use 5G as a tool to develop the next raft of technology innovations.”

Already, uses cases for 5G are emerging, including smart boats that tell you when they need fixing with 24/7 automated ticketing and real-time tracking at sea – to using 5G to help a blind skiier to conquer the slopes via her smartphone-holding guide.

Vodafone also points out that network partner Nokia passed government reviews from the likes of the Government Communications Safety Bureau (GCSB), as required under the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013 (TICSA).

“Vodafone NZ has been advised by the GCSB that the proposed 5G deployment does not raise any network security risk,” the company states.

Vodafone will be communicating with its mobile customers about how to access 5G enabled plans for no additional charge.  In the future, the company plans to charge a premium for 5G.

To be eligible for 5G customers will need a 5G capable device, a 5G enabled plan and be in a 5G connected area.

“We’re excited to bring the future to New Zealand and help unlock innovations that will enable all New Zealanders to live better, safer, healthier and more connected lives,” Baird concludes.