A day at the races: live video makes 4G and 5G race car demos more fun

race car dude
Source: Nokia

Various demos this week show 4.5G and 5G can deliver high-speed data to a race car. But more interesting is the live video apps those links enable.

ITEM: We’re only halfway through the week and we’re already seeing a slew of connected car announcements involving mobile broadband and racing cars. Various demos are out to show that 4.5G and 5G can deliver high-speed data connectivity to fast-moving terminals. But more interesting than the data speeds is what those links were used for: namely, live video for a virtual reality app and, in one case, a virtual viewscreen for the driver.

To Korea first, where SK Telecom, Ericsson and BMW Korea staged a 5G connected car demo at the BMW driving center in Yeongjong Island, where SK Telecom build a 28-GHz 5G trial network late last year. This time around, they achieved a peak rate of 3.6 Gbps for a connected vehicle travelling at a speed of 170 kilometers per hour using the 28-GHz band. They also managed a sustained connection speed of at least 1.5 Gbps during handoffs.

5G connected car
Source: Ericsson

From the press release:

Through the application of its advanced beamforming and beam tracking technologies, SK Telecom was able to address the limitations of millimeter wave bands stemming from the fact radio waves in these bands use high gain and high directivity antenna, which causes signals to be often blocked by objects standing in their path and have smaller coverage.

SK Telecom says the 3.6-Gbps rate “significantly enhances the stability of connected car services by improving image recognition and V2X (Vehicle to Everything Communication) technologies.”

Somewhat more impressive was a live demo by Nokia, Alphabet’s Access Group  and Qualcomm Technologies of a private LTE network using the 3.5-GHz CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) shared spectrum band at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, with bonus virtual reality.

CBRS is unlicensed spectrum in the US, and Nokia, Access and Qualcomm are founding members of the CBRS Alliance, which is promoting LTE-based solutions in the CBRS spectrum so that venues like speedways can deploy their own private LTE network to offer new services.

In this case, the demo used TD-LTE with 4×4 MIMO and 64QAM to cover the complete track and spectator area. The network was engineered for high uplink rates on the race track and high downlink rates in the spectator area, as well as very low latency between the race cars and network, and seamless mobility between base stations. Then they stuck 4K cameras on the cars and streamed 360° video via a Qualcomm LTE modem back to a “virtual reality zone” at the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

nokia access qualcomm CBRS
Source: Nokia

Result: spectators could use VR to be “in” the race car while it zoomed around the track at in excess of 180 mph.

Meanwhile, Vodafone Huchison Australia took the live streaming idea and went one better by getting Australian racing legend Mark Skaife to drive around Calder Park Thunderdome in Victoria in a BMW M6 with the car’s windows completely blacked out and relying solely on live video piped into the car via Vodafone’s LTE network, with three Samsung Galaxy S7s attached to the roof as cameras and three Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 tablets fixed to the inside of his windscreen.

We have video for that one.

“It was like driving in an Xbox game – but without the reset button!” said Skaife. “Samsung phones consistently transmitting live footage via the Vodafone 4G network to tablets inside the car – it was the ultimate in real world racing simulation.”

Unlike the above demos, VHA pulled this one off using its existing LTE network. And VHA chief Inaki Berroeta had enough faith in his network that he rode shotgun with Skaife during the demo.

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