Spark New Zealand advanced its 5G plans with the commencement of a trial with the Emirates Team New Zealand sailing team.

The operator said the trial service is an extension of its interactive 5G test lab which opened in November 2018 in Wynyard Quarter in downtown Auckland, using spectrum on loan from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The set-up uses Huawei equipment, but Spark noted it is a private network for the sailing team’s use only, and is isolated from the rest of its infrastructure.

Spark said Emirates Team New Zealand can livestream data and video back to engineers and designers at the base straight from boat while it’s sailing, with the real-time access expected to boost the squad’s preparations for the America’s Cup race in 2021.

Dan Bernasconi, head of design for Emirates Team New Zealand, said data streams cover “boat speed, ride height and hydraulic pressure coming off the water”.

In a statement, Spark said the 5G lab is primarily designed as a collaboration space to give local innovators, entrepreneurs and companies early access to 5G for testing.

It will also host technologies showcasing some of the possibilities and benefits of 5G.

In late September the operator turned on 5G service in Alexandra for a limited number of enterprise and consumer customers, with plans to expand the network to an additional five towns by the year-end and other locations in early 2020.

The exact timing of its full launch, however, depends on the availability of spectrum, which is expected to be auctioned by the government this year.