Peter Griffin, Editor. 01 December 2021, 9:07 am
Mobile operator 2Degrees has switched on its 5G network in Auckland and Wellington for testing and optimisation, joining Spark and Vodafone in introducing the next generation of mobile technology.
While 5G debuted in New Zealand in 2019 with significantly increased data transfer speeds touted as the key advantage for customers, the technology has had a low-key presence here over the past couple of years.
As such, 2Degrees doesn’t appear to have suffered by being the last to roll out 5G. With the pandemic seeing us spending more time than ever at home, the focus shifted to the ability of home broadband connections and consumer-grade wireless networks to support work, home-schooling and digital entertainment.
Conspiracy theories linking 5G cell sites to the spread of Covid-19 and which even led to a handful of attacks on cell site infrastructure, dampened the industry’s appetite to expound the virtues of shifting to 5G.
2Degrees says that 100 network engineers, testers and staff are trialling the active 5G cell sites in Auckland and Wellington, ahead of a commercial launch of the service in the first quarter of 2022. Testing of 5G sites in Christchurch will begin next month.
Over 100 network, IT, and civil engineers, technicians, testers, and project managers have been part of the largest technology upgrade undertaken since 2degrees launched in 2009.
“Early test results have demonstrated speeds over 1Gbps (gigabits per second),” says 2Degrees chief technology officer, Martin Sharrock.
“Over the coming months the team will be rigorously testing 5G on numerous devices so when this new network and technology is launched for customers it will be fully optimised on a range of 5G enabled devices. We’re thrilled with the early test results and can’t wait to complete our optimisation work and officially launch the 5G network to our customers,” he added.
Preparations for the 5G network launch have seen 2Degrees partner with Swedish equipment maker Ericsson to upgrade 3G and 4G radio access network equipment and introduce 5G. That has seen 2Degrees phase out much of the equipment that was supplied by Huawei, which has been frozen out of mobile network projects around the world over concerns by Western allies that its technology poses a threat to national security.
Sharrock said 2Degrees would launch its 5G network with up to 100 cell sites with the “creation of a contiguous 5G experience in areas where there is highest demand and uptake”.
While the relatively good performance of 4G data transfer for typical mobile phone applications has seen tepid appetite for 5G to date, most handsets now come with 5G included as standard. The new 5G networks have another advantage too – increasing capacity in cell sites to allow for more reliable connections when sites are under high demand.