Thursday, August 11, 2022

Rural connectivity may see boost from super-fast tech

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Canterbury trials indicate there may be a way farms out of reach of fibre can still get up to speed.
Renee Mateparae says the rural application of the 5G mmWave technology will deliver high-speed opportunities for farmers and remote users. Photo: Supplied

Trials on extra high-speed internet in Canterbury are proving there could be a viable wireless option for farmers who may have despaired of ever having fibre-like speeds for their farm internet.

Spark, in partnership with PGG Wrightson, has started a “5G mmWave” test site at Mouse Point North Canterbury on spectrum lent to it by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

Renee Mateparae, tech evolution lead for Spark, said 5G mmWave is the equivalent of taking the conventional 4G-5G  bandwidth, seeing it as a conventional two-lane highway, and turning it into a 10-lane data highway capable of even higher speeds and greater data volume. 

It offers significantly greater capacity and speed than any of the other bands currently in use on the network, but its reach is lower than existing bands – meaning often deployment will be in highly localised areas where high speed and high capacity are needed.

But Mateparae said the rural application of the tech delivers some high-speed opportunities that offer options for farmers and remote users.

“As a solution for greater speed it is easier to deploy than fibre to all houses. What we wanted to find out more about was the impact that distance has on that speed in rural areas. We have found that at 7km from the tower it is still delivering 1Gigabytes per second. That is pretty good at that distance.” 

At 3km from the tower that speed was 2.4Gbps.

A 4G-enabled smart phone will receive data at 50 Megabytes per second.

Mateparae said this high-resolution 5G frequency could mean farms could be set up as smart farm hot spots for high data demand tasks that could be tapped into. Video analytics are proving to be an area this sort of connectivity is ideal for.

PGG Wrightson CEO Stephen Guerin said the company’s livestreaming livestock auction service bidr is one system likely to benefit from such technology.

“This type of new connectivity technology could provide our online customers with high-definition livestreaming with minimal delays of our auctions,” said Geurin.

PGG Wrightson has a supply store in nearby Culverden, only 6km from the test site, enabling rural operations to utilise 5G connectivity.

As pressure grows on rural health provisions, the technology offers greater opportunities for remote health consultations, with high-definition video adding to consult accuracy.

Mateparae said Spark will continue to work with PGG Wrightson exploring the options and opportunities the tech provides.

MBIE officials have said they hope to make mmWave spectrum available as soon as is practicable, subject to the conclusion of ongoing spectrum consultation.

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