News

10 Nov 2022

5G: WHERE ARE WE AT IN NEW ZEALAND?

by Jenny Barrett

The capability of 5G in the entertainment and arts space

Following up on last month’s look at the current potential for successfully integrating Augmented Reality into live entertainment, we address the current roll out of New Zealand’s 5G network and capability.

5G is the latest generation of wireless technology and offers faster speeds and more capacity than 4G. This means it has the bandwidth to support the increasing demand for data year on year and the growth of technologies like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).

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In August, Spark launched a 5G Street Museum to demonstrate to Kiwis what emerging technologies like 5G and AR can do for Aotearoa, whether it be art, culture or the next era of entertainment. Matt Bain, Spark’s Marketing Director reflects, “Over the decades we’ve seen how the wireless evolution has transformed how we engage with the world. 1G enabled calls on the go, 2G introduced text messages, 3G gave us internet on the go, and 4G brought us video on demand. 5G promises to deliver another step-change in our experience. If the previous generations have taught us anything, it’s that it’s going to fundamentally change how we work, learn, connect, and are entertained.”

“Spark’s 5G Street Museum has enabled world-class creators; artists, dancers and singers, to explore entirely new ways of expressing themselves and in turn, with the speed and capability of 5G, offer their audience a new, immersive way to engage with them at scale and in the highest definition possible,” says Matt.

The Spark 5G Street Museum app is free to download. The Street Museum exhibits can be viewed by the public across select streets in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin. Each exhibition explores new forms of storytelling and self-expression through the power of 5G and AR.

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Parris Goebel is giving fans the chance to dance alongside her in an immersive 3D experience that showcases the incredible superhuman transformation Parris experiences when she performs.

Benee has built a thriving natural AR world of positivity and fun – The Beneeverse. This exhibit embodies the source of her creative inspiration; a magical world where nature and imagination are flourishing.

David Dallas walks us through a breakthrough moment that saw him become one of the brightest stars on the NZ hip-hop circuit and one of our most-streamed albums in the last decade.

Teeks invites us to step into the waharoa and witness his personal experience as a singer/songwriter and how performing is a spiritual and ritualistic practice that connects him to his tūpuna (ancestors).

And lastly Askew One is paying homage to the strength of New Zealand’s urban and street art culture, bringing together decades of artists in a story of resilience and rebirth.

Over the last couple of years Spark has also partnered with Animation Research Limited (ARL) to bring to life local street art in Dunedin with AR and 5G, switched on 5G at Eden Park in 2021 in time for their first concert with SIX60 to enhance video sharing, and launched the 5G Race Zone for the America’s Cup giving visitors the opportunity to feel, create, learn and even smell all things sailing, without getting on the water, by bringing together the best of sailing and technology in seven fully interactive zones.

Of particular interest to the live entertainment space is the potential for a standalone 5G network to unlock capabilities such as ‘mobile edge compute’ which is currently being trialled in the commercial sector. Mark Beder, Chief Operating Officer at Spark explains, “This is where we take more of the networks processing functions to the ‘edges of the network’ which reduces the distance data needs to travel from one point to another, reducing the lag and allowing for real-time connectivity. A stadium could use this to enhance the spectator viewing experience. As an example, during the game, you could put on a VR headset or use your mobile device to view the game from multiple angles around the stadium. Imagine in real-time jumping to the live camera angle right alongside the goal line or viewing overlaid player stats. Or alternatively, if you were in the comfort of your own home and could put on a VR headset, you could watch the event as though you are there in real life, in high resolution and real time.”

The other capability that 5G standalone unlocks is network slicing, “Today our network is tuned to provide the best experience across a variety of devices. ‘Slicing’ provides the ability to tailor or ‘slice’ the network and then tune that ‘slice’ based on a specific use type.

As an example, a live concert at a stadium in Auckland could slice a dedicated piece of network to live video stream to New Zealand households in real time and in high resolution, allowing for people who may not be able to get to Auckland to also experience the concert. They could then create another slice of the network purely for the connectivity in the stadium so that fans can send and receive messages, make calls and post on social media.”

At this stage, Spark is still trialling standalone 5G and currently not offering it as a commercial service, “Although we know the future of 5G is really exciting, right now we are still in the early stages of rolling out 5G, so coverage might be one of the barriers to why an entertainment company might not be able to currently utilise 5G. 5G also doesn’t reach the same distance or penetrate obstacles such as buildings the same way 4G does so the location of the entertainment venue could play a factor.”

Mark Beder believes we are only at the start of how 5G will enhance the way New Zealander’s watch their favourite sporting match or experience a world class event, “In the future, 5G will completely transform the way we experience live events. This could be anything from using virtual reality to provide fans with front-row concert experiences from their couch, improving in-person experiences with augmented reality, or reducing the time waiting in a queue for drinks and food with artificial intelligence self-service checkouts. The opportunities to improve customer experience and business efficiency are endless.”

Unfortunately, Spark is unable to disclose their future plans around 5G but Mark is excited, “There is definitely going to be more to come in both the consumer and enterprise sector so watch this space! Right now, Spark has 5G in forty-eight locations nationwide and close to a quarter of all the smartphones on Spark’s network are 5G enabled and we expect this will keep growing, especially as Kiwis upgrade their smartphones and we expand our 5G coverage footprint.”

And overseas…UK’s 5G Festival Showcase

DiGiCo, d&b audiotechnik and Soundscape, Audiotonix, Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival, LiveFrom, Mativision, Metropolis Studios, Sonosphere, Virgin Media O2, Warner Music Group and Digital Catapult recently brought together twenty musicians playing at three different locations in the UK, at the Metropolis Studios, the O2 Blueroom, and the Brighton Dome. The project successfully resolved the issue of latency between artists collaborating remotely.

Sonosphere created a 7.1 mix for the in-venue stream at Brighton Dome, whilst DiGiCo Quantum 338 mixing consoles in Brighton Dome Concert Hall and the O2 Blueroom received all the live feeds, 200 channels in all, and a binaural feed was created for the live stream for people watching on their mobile devices at home. Sonosphere also supplied a binaural stream, delivered via Shure in-ears and headphones, for a 5G equipped electric bus.

They were successfully able to take the audio feeds from each of the locations, bring them back into the spatial mixing studio at Metropolis and then broadcast the spatial mix out to a live, immersive system at Brighton Dome. They got the latency down to an 8ms round trip from venue to venue, opening theway for musicians from different cultural locations and backgrounds to collaborate without having to travel, potentially creating new and exciting content for hybrid music events where there is a combination of live, in-venue audiences and remote viewing.

Subject to access to 5G.

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