Vodafone demonstrates 5G with robots, VR streaming

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Vodafone demonstrates 5G with robots, VR streaming
Robots running on Vodafone's trial 5G network.

To showcase latency, bandwidth potential.

Vodafone has publicly shown off trial uses for 5G technology at the University of Technology Sydney today, including robotics and virtual reality streaming.

The telco in late August revealed it would start lab trials of the technology in the fourth quarter of this year, following closely behind rival Telstra, which showcased its first 5G trials last month.

Production deployments of 5G are planned for 2020.

Vodafone is working with equipment partner Nokia as well as several research and development partners like the University of Technology Sydney to test 5G technologies.

The defining characteristics of 5G, according to Vodafone, are latency, connection density, and peak user speeds.

Vodafone’s head of access network strategy Jeff Owen said latency on 5G would be down to 1ms compare to 30ms+ on 4G.

5G would be capable of supporting connection densities of millions per square kilometre compared to thousands per cell on 4G, while peak user speeds would reach 10Gbps on 5G compared to the 150-600Mbps available on 4G.

The telco demonstrated two use cases for 5G to highlight the improvements the technology could make for latency and bandwidth.

It used Nokia OZO virtual reality cameras in the transmission of eight simultaneous virtual reality streams from a 5G base station over the air to a 5G terminal, rendering to a display screen, to indicate the bandwidth potential of 5G.

For what Vodafone dubbed an “extreme broadband use case”, the telco used a configuration of 8x8 MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output, where multiple antennas carry data to and from the end user) and 64 QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation, which combines two AM signals into one channel to double the bandwidth).

That configuration provides for a theoretical peak throughput of 5Gbps, it said.

A demonstration of robotics running on 5G highlighted the differences in latency between the 5G and 4G networks. It involved three robots attempting to balance a ball on a shared tray controlled by an application running over the Vodafone network.

The robots struggled to balance the ball with the 75ms of latency over the 4G network, affecting their ability to meet each others’ calls on time, whereas the 2ms latency available over the 5G network saw them achieve their goal much faster.

“There are a lot of use cases - remote surgery, industrial robotic control, self-driving cars - where short latency of 2ms, 1ms is needed, and which we can’t do with the current 4G technology, which has much higher latency,” Nokia 5G spokesman Carsten Clemens said.

The telco is using 200Mhz of spectrum in the 4.5Ghz band for its current trials, but stressed this was “representative” and “not a vision we have for 5G”.

While it is testing 8x8 versions of MIMO , it will also play around with beam forming - the technology rival Telstra is currently trialling - down the track for more mobile scenarios.

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