Forget the hype – Spirit customers are already getting 5G technology
Spirit Telecom launched Australia’s first 5G services technology in 2017 – ahead of high street giants and the NBN
Our head-honcho of sky-speed Internet, Spirit CEO Geoff Neate, stirred the pot at the 2018 CommsDay Summit recently. He let Australia know that we are already providing Spirit customers technology that has now been ratified as part of 5G. Geoff then took things a little further by saying that 5G will not be available to Telstra and Optus customers until next year, while the 5G tech we are using (beamforming) has been in use on our network since 2017. Needless to say, things got pretty interesting after this announcement.
Thanks to a wider use of beamforming implemented over recent months, our customers are benefiting from reliable, symmetrical speeds of up to 1Gbps.
We’re proud to be one of the first few telecommunications providers around the world that have brought this technology to market ahead of the big telcos.
“True 5G will be a totally new network that will eventually make the existing 4G redundant,” explains our Chief Technology Officer Dainen Keogh.
“The full suite of 5G technologies has yet to be fully confirmed, but is expected to include at least five separate components. The one technology that has been agreed upon is beamforming.
“This is the piece that the high street giants are referring to when they talk about launching 5G next year but they are really just adding beamforming to their existing 4G networks. ‘4G+’ would be a better label, even though the global industry refers to it as 5G New Radio (5GNR).
“And while those two telcos say they have activated their first 5G sites, that’s of no use to their customers as suitable devices aren’t expected until 2019.
“True 5G probably won’t be available in Australia for another five to ten years.”
So what is beamforming?
A simple antenna – as used by radio broadcasters or low-end Wi-Fi routers – transmits the signal in an approximately circular pattern, which is very useful if you want uniform coverage. Yagi antennas – like the one you may have on your roof to receive TV signals – are very directional, which is why they are also used for point-to-point links between buildings.
Beamforming uses an array of up to 64 transmitting and 64 receiving antenna elements in such a way that the individual signals deliberately interfere with each other, resulting in multiple beams in different directions. These beams are aimed at each receiver, providing a stronger signal and reducing unwanted interference, and the system is smart enough to determine the best radio path to the receiver even if that involves bouncing the signal off buildings and other obstacles. The result is faster connections over longer distances.
As this is all handled electronically by the radio systems, no adjustments are required when more premises are connected to the network, or if a new large building goes up between the base station and some of the premises it serves.
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Earlier this year, we upgraded the radios that provide the multipoint connections between a site and our customers. Thanks to beamforming, this upgrade allows us to offer plans as fast as 1Gbps. Because we own our network, we were able to implement beamforming without disturbing customers’ existing connections.
Other technologies likely to contribute to achieving the vision for 5G include:
Millimetre wave radio. Radio frequencies between 30 and 300 GHz allow very high data rates but do not penetrate buildings effectively. Spirit has been using millimetre wave (80 GHz) in its network for around three years.
Small cell networks. The problem of millimetre waves being shadowed by buildings and other obstacles can be largely overcome by augmenting existing base stations with a network of low power base stations, each serving a relatively small area.
Massive MIMO. This technology allows multiple simultaneous data streams on the same radio channel, thus increasing the total capacity. Beamforming is used in conjunction with massive MIMO in order to take advantage of that capacity.
Full duplex. Most radio systems require that the two devices either take turns to transmit, or that they transmit on different channels. Full duplex allows both to transmit at the same time, potentially doubling the capacity of the link.
“Spirit’s network has been developed to support these technologies,” continues Dainen.
“The eventual full 5G standard will help power AI, VR, connected homes and cars, but Spirit’s future-proof network is already providing customers with superior, super-fast Internet.
“Thanks to beamforming – the equivalent of 5GNR – we are able to give our customers individual connections today, so their speeds remain consistent regardless of the number of users in their immediate area.
“And we can provide symmetrical speeds, with uploads that are as fast as downloads. This is already important for our business customers and those who work from home or often upload large files such as videos, but it will become increasingly important as technologies such as AR and VR come into common use.”
We’re bringing you the Internet of the future, first.
When full 5G arrives, it will present a wide range of opportunities for consumers and businesses. The low latency will reduce lag so AR and VR can become more realistic, autonomous vehicles will be less reliant on their onboard processing capabilities and better placed to communicate with infrastructure and other vehicles, and the remote operation of equipment — from drones to surgical instruments — will become more accurate and timely.
The higher speeds offered by 5G will be a boon in any situation involving large quantities of data such as streaming video, and the increased network capacity will mean more connections can be served simultaneously without users noticing any degradation.
5G also accommodates sensors and other devices that make up the Internet of Things, in part by making provision for devices that need to transmit small amounts of data over relatively long distances with power consumption that is so low that one battery could last ten years.
We’re already supplying what the telco giants are calling 5G, and aiming even higher.
“If Spirit were a country it would be number one in the world with faster Internet than the US, Japan and Switzerland. Australia as a whole, by comparison, lags behind Slovenia with an average speed of just 24Mbps,” says Dainen.
“We’re preparing for a faster future and in doing so are able to provide super-fast Internet speeds today. We supply the speeds the country needs to work, game, socialise and live their best digital lives.”
If your home or business is interested in becoming one of the first to experience super-fast, sky-speed 5G technology in Australia, contact us today, we’re here to help.