New Zealand's Spark and the Emirates America's Cup team have opened an interactive 5G test lab in Auckland with Spark promising it will launch a live 5G network on 1 July 2020 that will give the team and edge in the America's Cup races to be held in July 2021.
There is just one hurdle to the plans: launch of Spark's 5G network is reliant on the availability of spectrum, which Spark anticipates will be auctioned by the Government in 2019.
Spark announced its partnership with the team in September. Under the deal Spark will provide the Emirates team with telecommunications and digital connectivity on and off the water and has exclusive rights to provide telecommunications services and connectivity within areas controlled by the organising company, America’s Cup Event Limited.
Use of the Spark 5G network will be limited to the Emirates team. Spark said the network would be used "to give Emirates Team New Zealand an edge in its defence of the 36th America’s Cup in 2021."
The CEO of Emirates Team New Zealand, Grant Dalton said the team did not know the full extent of these opportunities, "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, to win the cup in 2021, the team 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.”
Bernasconi said access to the 5G network and its reduced latency and higher bandwidth meant that through the on-water testing stage the Emirates Team New Zealand designers back at base woul 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," said Bernasconi.
“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.”
However Spark said the lab had been primarily designed to give its customers and partners access to a 5G network so they could experiment with live 5G technology.
"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 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."