Spark opens 5G lab for America’s Cup NZ team to play with

5G Spark Emirates Team New Zealand
Image credit: Dennis W Donohue /

Spark and Emirates Team New Zealand have opened an interactive 5G test lab that also marks the official countdown to Spark’s planned 5G network launch on Auckland Harbour by July 1, 2020 for the team to use as part of its preparation to defend the America’s Cup.

Spark managing director Simon Moutter said the Spark 5G Lab is primarily designed to enable New Zealand companies to experiment with live 5G technology.

The lab will also host technologies that showcase some of the possibilities and benefits of 5G such as robotics, virtual reality, facial recognition, IoT, smart cities, emergency services drones and driverless cars, Moutter added.

“We are basing some of our engineers at the lab and will have technical support and a working space available for our customers and partners to come in and collaborate with us on co-creating the 5G future,” he said.

With digital technology being seen as key to the America’s Cup, Emirates Team New Zealand says the partnership is an important part of their planning and strategy.

“The relationship between Emirates Team New Zealand and Spark will give us an opportunity to have unrestricted access to a 5G network that will help us defend the America’s Cup in 2021,” said CEO of Emirates Team New Zealand, Grant Dalton.

Dalton admitted the team didn’t know exactly how 5G technologies will help, “but we know they are going to make a huge difference to the race.”

Dan Bernasconi, Head of Design at Emirates Team New Zealand, added: “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.”

For example, Bernasconi said, 5G’s reduced latency and higher bandwidth means that through the on-water testing stage the Emirates Team New Zealand designers back at base will be able to get data and analytics in real-time.

“This will make a huge difference. In Bermuda our designers had to spend hundreds of hours out on the water on chase boats close to the yacht in order to get data to then upload and analyze once they were back on shore. From there, they would look at what needed to be done for the next test day,” he explained. “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.”

Tina Symmans, chair of Americas Cup Event Ltd, said that 5G could also enhance the event for spectators via apps like virtual reality, live streaming of online race data, driverless cars taking people around the cup village, and smart city connectivity

Spark cautioned that all of this is contingent on the New Zealand government making 5G spectrum available – which it is expected to do via auction sometime next year.

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