Spark opens 5G test lab to partners

Expands Auckland lab

Spark has expanded its 5G test lab in Auckland, opened last November, to include a facility where others can collaborate with Spark on 5G projects.

Spark announced last November the opening of “New Zealand’s first interactive 5G test lab,” in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct to help the Emirates Team New Zealand — sponsored by Spark — prepare to defend the America’s Cup.

At the time it flagged collaboration as being the primary role of the facility.

“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.”

In this week’s announcement Spark named the Patience Project as “one of the first organisations to move in and use Spark’s pre-commercial 5G network with the aim of combating social isolation for Kiwi children diagnosed with a long-term illness.”

The Patience Project aims to develop a virtual reality headset and associated technology that will enable a child confined in a hospital ward or bedroom to be virtually transported to school and have the ability to take an active part in lessons as well as benefit from a social connection with his or her peers.

Spark’s general manager of value management, Raj Singh, said: “With the flexibility of 5G, the Patience Project has the potential to reach far more children experiencing long-term illnesses due to its ability to not rely on expensive hardware and utilise more cost-effective technologies such as cloud computing…

“Furthermore, 5G’s ability to reach up to 100x faster speeds combined with low latency will greatly help to minimise motion sickness that many experience whilst using the virtual reality headset and patients can experience real-time two-way communication via voice without lag.”

However none of this potential has yet been demonstrated in the lab. Spark said the Patience Project had been piloted under 4G technology.

When it announced the lab Spark said it aimed “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.”

It said at the time that this was “reliant on the availability of spectrum which we anticipate will be auctioned by the Government in 2019.”

However the first auctions of 3G spectrum are now not scheduled to be held until early in 2020 and expected to be available for use from 2022.

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