Vodafone NZ today switched on 5G in parts of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown with 100 of its over 1500 cell sites now offering the service.
At a launch in Wellington this morning, Vodafone NZ CEO Jason Paris said he expected customers using 5G to experience mobile download speeds of potentially five to 10 times the current 4G speeds.
That is well short of the potential offered by 5G, however, due to limits on the spectrum currently available.
Customers can download large files, such as movies, much more quickly and start to experience new forms of entertainment such as cloud-based gaming – while businesses can further innovate with new technologies and connected devices, he said.
“This is just the beginning of a new technology era for New Zealand," Paris said.
“5G is our most powerful tool yet that will make the ‘life remotes’ in our pocket even more essential. The fifth generation network will mean our cities and communities can become more connected, smarter, safer and healthier."
As well as being faster, 5G will deliver greater speed, latency, capacity and security – as well as an enhanced internet of things, Paris said.
Vodafone NZ showcased two of the first local case studies.
Rob Cochrane, NZ Police chief information officer, presented a 5G-enabled drone that can take 4K quality video and feed it back instantly to police officers on the ground.
“5G technology will really help us keep New Zealanders safe," Cochrane said. "While drone footage over a 4G connection is useful, with a 5G network connection the general quality improves dramatically meaning we can scan the environment allowing a faster response to keep the community safe.”
Hamilton-based artificial intelligence company, Aware Group, displayed a 5G tool for retail businesses.
Chief technology officer Jourdan Templeton said the plug-and-play retail optimisation tool gives business owners a heat map of how people are interacting with products in their stores.
"While some of this you can do this over 4G, it now becomes cost-effective with 5G due to the ability to use cloud-based storage enabled by the higher network capacity and greater processing speeds," he said.
Mana Williams from youth advisory non-profit Voyce – Whakarongo Mai, a partner of the charitable arm the Vodafone Foundation, officially turned on the network alongside Thaigan Govender, lead engineer on the project.
To access 5G, Kiwis need a 5G device, a 5G enabled plan and be in a 5G connected area.
Vodafone customers will be able to experience 5G for free until 30 June 2020, and after that the company will charge $10 per connection, per month.
Device launch partner Samsung released two new models on the network, both offering faster speeds and better processing capacity.
Vodafone will continue to build-out its 5G network over coming years with partner Nokia supplying technology
to more than 1500 cell sites around the country.
Tony Baird, technology director, explained that Vodafone was using 3.5GHz spectrum to launch 5G. Current radio spectrum will mean that Vodafone customers see an uplift of up to 10 times current 4G speeds.
"However to reach the one gigabit speeds that we’re seeing internationally, we’ll need approximately 100MHz of 3.5GHz spectrum so will continue to work with the government on the early allocation and auction processes.”
Vodafone has stitched together spectrum deals to enable the launch while it and and other local telcos wait for the final reallocation of spectrum, by auction, which is not expected until 2022.
Vodafone NZ's biggest local rival, Spark, launched commercial 5g services in some regional areas late last month.