Faster with 5G

Emi­rates Team New Zealand’s de­fence of the 2021 Amer­ica’s Cup is poised to re­ceive a help­ing hand from an un­likely source – an ul­tra-fast 5G wire­less net­work.

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY LAWRENCE SCHÄF­FLER

ETNZ’S Amer­ica’s Cup de­fence will re­ceive a hand from an un­likely ally – an ul­tra-fast wire­less net­work.

To win the next Cup, says Dan Ber­nasconi, Emi­rates Team New Zealand’s (ETNZ) Head of De­sign, we first need to win the in­no­va­tion race.

“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’s com­ments came at the Novem­ber launch­ing of New Zealand’s first in­ter­ac­tive 5G test lab in Auck­land’s Wyn­yard Quar­ter. Cre­ated by Spark, the lab has a dual pur­pose. It’s de­signed as a col­lab­o­ra­tion space for New Zealand in­no­va­tors, en­trepreneurs and com­pa­nies – like ETNZ – to have early ac­cess to 5G, “to test and de­velop prod­ucts and ex­pe­ri­ences that will de­fine the fu­ture.”

Spark aims to have the coun­try’s first 5G net­work live on the Auck­land Har­bour by July 1, 2020 for ETNZ to use as part of its prepa­ra­tion to de­fend the Amer­ica’s Cup.

The lab will also host tech­nolo­gies that show­case some of the pos­si­bil­i­ties and ben­e­fits of 5G – ro­bot­ics, vir­tual re­al­ity, fa­cial recog­ni­tion, In­ter­net of Things (lot), 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,” says Spark man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Si­mon Mout­ter, “so it is cru­cial we col­lab­o­rate with busi­nesses like ETNZ to start co-cre­at­ing the fu­ture of 5G.”

A 5G net­work op­er­ates in the 3.6GHZ ra­dio spec­trum/band, dif­fer­ent to the cur­rent 4G net­work (typ­i­cally 700MHZ or

1800 MHZ). Cru­cially, though, it runs 10 times faster. In ad­di­tion, it of­fers min­i­mal ‘la­tency’ – the data is avail­able in real-time. This is un­like the la­tency (de­layed trans­mis­sion) that af­fects ex­ist­ing wire­less net­works. It is this speed and re­duced la­tency ad­van­tage that ETNZ hopes to use to as a tool to help op­ti­mise boat per­for­mance.

Ber­nasconi says these two fac­tors will be par­tic­u­larly use­ful dur­ing the yacht’s on-wa­ter test­ing stage, be­cause ETNZ de­sign­ers back at base will have ac­cess to data – and be able to run an­a­lyt­ics – in real-time.

“In Ber­muda our de­sign­ers had to spend hun­dreds of hours out on the wa­ter on chase boats close to the yacht to get data and then up­load and an­a­lyse it 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.”

There is an enor­mous vol­ume of data that needs to be an­a­lysed on the new foil­ing mono­hull. The boat car­ries scores of load and pres­sure sen­sors as well as strain gauges – and these pa­ram­e­ters are mon­i­tored at a fre­quency of up to 1000 times a sec­ond. In ad­di­tion, there are in­puts of the more ob­vi­ous streams of data such as boat and wind speed – as well as high-res­o­lu­tion video.

With the data trans­mit­ted di­rectly to ETNZ’S shore-based sta­tion for im­me­di­ate anal­y­sis, changes can be in­tro­duced ‘on-the-fly’ while the boat is out on the wa­ter, and the im­pact of such changes will be mon­i­tored in­stan­ta­neously. Mout­ter says Spark’s pre­lim­i­nary tests with the 5G tech­nol­ogy have recorded op­er­at­ing speeds of around 18 gi­ga­bits/sec­ond.

The ad­van­tages of the 5G tech­nol­ogy is par­tic­u­larly sig­nif­i­cant, says Ber­nasconi, given the tight time-line and re­stric­tions sur­round­ing the devel­op­ment and test sail­ing of the boats. He points out that, with a num­ber of re­gat­tas sched­uled around the world for the AC boats, the op­por­tu­ni­ties for test­ing and fine-tun­ing are lim­ited be­cause the ves­sels will be trav­el­ling be­tween the dif­fer­ent venues for much of the time.

Spark, adds Mout­ter, “is fully com­mit­ted to help­ing ETNZ in­no­vate, test and push the bound­aries of tech­nol­ogy in their quest to de­fend the cup. We’ll be aim­ing to sup­port real-time an­a­lyt­ics via the 5G net­work to help make the boat go faster.”

Fans watch­ing the rac­ing in 2021 are also likely to ben­e­fit from the 5G net­work. Tina Sym­mans, the Chair of Amer­ica’s Cup Event Ltd, says 5G will 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

We’ll be aim­ing to sup­port re­al­time an­a­lyt­ics via the 5G net­work to help make the boat go faster.

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.”


There is, how­ever, one small de­tail which needs to be ad­dressed be­fore the 5G net­work can be­come a re­al­ity – the Gov­ern­ment needs to come on board.

The 5G spec­trum is not yet avail­able to tel­cos like Spark – and will only be­come so once the Gov­ern­ment ‘auc­tions’ the spec­trum some time in 2019. No one is en­tirely sure when that might hap­pen. From Mout­ter’s per­spec­tive, the sooner the bet­ter, given that it will take time to build the new net­work and test it.

And, he says, there is an added ur­gency to in­tro­duc­ing 5G. “It’s es­ti­mated that by 2020 ev­ery hu­man on the planet will be con­nected to at least four de­vices via the in­ter­net. Cur­rent band­width will be to­tally sat­u­rated – we need to move quickly on 5G tech­nol­ogy.”

So far only a few coun­tries op­er­ate 5G net­works – among them the USA and South Korea. As this is­sue was go­ing to press, the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment was pre­par­ing its auc­tion of the coun­try’s 5G spec­trum.

LEFT The 5G net­work will al­low the ETNZ team to in­tro­duce changes on-the-fly, and im­me­di­ately as­sess the im­pact of those changes.

BE­LOW Ul­tra­so­phis­ti­cated ro­botic tech­nol­ogy is one in­dus­try sec­tor ex­pected to ex­pand dra­mat­i­cally with 5G.

LEFT Spark CEO Si­mon Mout­ter and ETNZ head de­signer Dan Ber­nasconi at the re­cent launch of the test lab. FAR LEFT & RIGHT 5G tech­nol­ogy will usher in a raft of ad­vances in ar­eas such as fa­cial recog­ni­tion and driver­less cars.

BE­LOW The Spark/ ETNZ col­lab­o­ra­tion will see the 5G net­work op­er­at­ing by July 2020.

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