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Spark goes rural to trial millimetre wave 5G technology

Peter Griffin, Editor. 21 July 2022, 7:29 am

While our three mobile network operators are all currently operating limited 5G network coverage, some are already working on a new flavour of 5G that uses very high frequencies for more efficient data transfer.

Spark has partnered with rural services provider PGG Wrightson to trial 5G millimetre wave (mmWave) technology and claims to have achieved a peak speed of 2.4 Gbps (gigabits per second) at a range of 3km and 1.4 Gbps at a range of 7km. The trial, conducted at Mouse Point, North Canterbury, involved equipment provider by Nokia, and was undertaken using radio spectrum loaned from the Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment, which controls spectrum assets in New Zealand.

PGG Wrightson connected to the mmWave tower from its store 6km away in Culverden. The company, which has retail operations throughout the country, sees a role for 5G in running its rural operations.

“Connectivity for some of our more rural store locations can be a real challenge. We believe that bringing high-speed connectivity into these stores will allow our people to operate more efficiently for our customers,” says Stephen Guerin, chief executive of PGG Wrightson.

“For instance, our livestreaming service for livestock auctions, bidr, runs live auctions from sale yards and on-farm. This type of new connectivity technology could provide our online customers with high-definition livestreaming with minimal delays of our auctions. Our business is looking forward to seeing how Spark’s 5G mmWave technology can make a difference.”  

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5G on the spectrum

Millimetre wave-based 5G technology deployed above 24 GHz has mainly been touted as a technology for urban areas. It delivers higher data throughput and lower network latency, but has a shorter range than 5G delivered at lower frequencies below 6Ghz (gigahertz) and can have trouble penetrating objects in its way. Millimetre wave-based networks in cities will require a greater density of base stations to fill in network coverage.

“The biggest obstacle to deploying mmWave in rural communities comes down to the same reason that those communities are underserved in the first place—their lower population densities and wider territories makes them less immediately profitable to invest in,” reports Ars Technica.

“While use cases are still emerging, 5G mmWave will be valuable for business applications such as ultra-HD video streaming, advanced analytics and machine learning, intelligent transport systems, e-health, education and much more,” says Renee Mateparae, Technology Evolution Lead for Spark.

“We’re starting to plan for this future step now by trialing mmWave technology in different scenarios. mmWave is likely best suited to areas where a high number of users are concentrated – places like shopping centres, crowded stadiums, and university campuses could all benefit from the capabilities of mmWave,” she adds. 


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