Optus launches '5G Live' experience in the Gold Coast

Optus' live indoor and outdoor trial 5G network in the Gold Coast is providing download speeds of up to 16Gbps, as well as demonstrating a range of 5G use cases including robotics and VR.

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(Image: Optus)

Australian telecommunications carrier Optus has launched its live 5G experience in the Gold Coast, announcing a series of showcases of 5G-reliant technologies and use cases including 8K video streaming and low-latency robotics.

According to Optus, the showcases will be powered by a live indoor and outdoor trial 5G network in what Optus Networks MD Dennis Wong called a "spectacular" demonstration.

Optus 5G Live is located at Kurrawa Park, Broadbeach, and will be open throughout the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

"For people to be able to walk off the street and interact with real 5G technology is an incredibly exciting development as we continue towards leading in the delivery of the first phase of 5G technology in 2019," Wong said.

"From being able to see 16Gbps speeds through a 5G test room, to using a robotic arm to operate a vending machine, these experiences allow people to truly see how 5G may be integrated into day-to-day life -- not just numbers on a screen."

The 8K mobile video-streaming demonstration involved equipping a moving van with an 8K TV and a 5G prototype device, which sends the live stream over Optus' 5G network.

"Seamless 5G connectivity between sites is a fundamental building block in mass connectivity and ultra-reliable applications, which are unique to 5G," Wong explained.

Other use cases on show by Optus include virtual reality (VR) football, VR cycling, VR driving, and 360-degree Commonwealth Games venue viewing, which Optus said would demonstrate 5G's ability to "manage significant data volumes", while its robotics applications including a mechanical arm throwing footballs and a mechanical hand playing Rock Paper Scissors will showcase the low latency of the network.

"It's also an example of how machine arm intelligence, coupled with high speeds, can be applied into the manufacturing industry to increase efficiency and productivity," Optus said.

"The robot arm mimics your movements in real time, highlighting how 5G will provide the high speeds and low latency needed to viably assist surgeons when operating remotely."

Optus had in February announced that it will begin rolling out its 5G network across Australia in early 2019 in an aim to launch a fixed-wireless product in "key metro areas", at the time saying it would host a showcase of its 5G technology during the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Queensland, including VR, machine-learning applications, and remote-controlled robots.

As a result of the NSA 5G New Radio (NR) specs being approved by 3GPP in December, Wong had explained that Optus could "increase momentum" on 5G.

"Throughout 2018, Optus is going to lead the Australian market in the development and deployment of pre-5G and 5G technologies," he said in February.

Optus attained 2Gbps download speeds while using a commercial device in a 5G NR outdoor trial at its HQ in Macquarie Park, Sydney, during January in partnership with Huawei, with the trial making use of spectrum in the millimetre-wave (mmWave) and 3.5GHz bands, as well as dual-band 5G NR equipment and commercial customer premises equipment.

"Everyone has heard of concepts like self-driving cars, smart homes, AI, and virtual reality; however, their full potential will require a fast and reliable network to deliver. Seeing 5G data speeds through our trial that are up to 15 times faster than current technologies allows us to show the potential of this transformative technology to support a new ecosystem of connected devices in the home, the office, the paddock, and in the wider community," he said.

"We continue to be involved in the fine tuning of the customer equipment with our partner Huawei to ensure that the equipment meets the standards as they are being endorsed."

The announcement follows Optus' first 5G trial with Huawei back in November 2016, which attained speeds of 35Gbps.

The trial was conducted over the 73GHz millimetre wave spectrum band, using the Polar Code coding mechanism, and was part of Optus' parent company Singtel's memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Huawei.

In September last year, Optus then announced completing Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) trials, telling ZDNet that in a world first, it combined the Massive MIMO technology with three-cell carrier (3CC) aggregation to attain combined throughput of 818Mbps on its 4G network.

"We have combined three-cell carrier aggregation together with the Massive MIMO, so now it's live in the network," Kent Wu, director of Mobile Networks Planning at Optus, told ZDNet.

"We have taken this technology one step ahead, and by using the two technologies combined together, we are the world's first to enable this three-cell carrier aggregation and Massive MIMO in the live network.

"Optus has been at the forefront in the 5G technology development, and also to adapt some of these fundamental 5G technologies to the 4.5G use," Wu added, calling it a "significant milestone for us in the way of leading to 5G".

These trials, part of its previously announced 4.5G expansion, were again conducted alongside Huawei, Wu told ZDNet.

"We worked with Huawei again because we have started off earlier this year with Huawei on the Massive MIMO, and they are the industry leader in terms of this technology," Wu explained.

"So we continued our strategy and worked with Huawei by using their hardware equipment and software to enable this."

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to the Gold Coast as a guest of Optus

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