Vodafone New Zealand, freshly hived off from its UK mothership, will go live with 5G service in December this year, using with Nokia supplying the network technology.
The telco will launch 5G service in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown, chief executive Jason Paris said.
Although it was sold in May this year to a consortium comprising ASX-listed infrastructure investor Infratil and Canadian asset manager Brookfiled, the Kiwi telco will retain the Vodafone name and branding, and is market partner with the UK head office.
"The experience of Vodafone in launching 5G in other countries has shown that consumer applications such as gaming, wearables, and smart home technologies definitely benefit from 5G's higher speed and lower latencyl; however, it's innovative businesses and public organisations that are the real early adopters," Paris said.
Vodafone did not disclose which handset partners it had signed up for the December launch, but technology director Tony Baird said that apart from mobile service, the telco intends provide fixed-wireless broadband, machine-to-machine communications, and internet of things connectivity over 5G.
Initially, Vodafone will provide 5G service for free to new and existing customers who upgrade their devices, to encourage them to stay with and move over to the telco, Paris told iTnews.
Later in the rollout, Vodafone will look at setting up a premium 5G service tier, Paris added.
Microsoft, IBM, NAB subsidiary BNZ, the NZ Police, Auckland Rescue Helicopters and Waste Management have signed up to partner with Vodafone on 5G, Baird said.
The 5G service is based on 3GPP's Release 15 standard. It will run in the 3.5 GigaHertz band, with Nokia showing millimetre-wave equipment for 28 GHz at the launch event, with the 4G component providing the underlying service, and 5G through the New Radio non-standalone feature.
For the 5G NR service, time-division multiplexing will be used unlike 4G today which is frequency division with separate radio bands for downstream and upstream transmission channels.
Nokia has deployed cell sites with 64 transceivers for the Vodafone 5G service, using active aerials with beam-forming that tracks user devices, to minimise handovers between base stations that have less coverage and object penetration than the existing 4G service in the 700 and 1800 MHz bands.
In a laboratory test at Vodafone's headquarters, the 5G service showed over 1 Gbps download speeds, but comparatively low uploads of just over 30 Mbps, with 100 MHz of bandwidth.
Vodafone says its 5G will run with a latency of less than 20 milliseconds for consumer applications, compared to 40-50 ms for 4G today.