New 5G technology: Tour de France stage to be transmitted with millimetre wave technology

A TV2 employee holds the camera with one hand and the special modem in his other hand. Illustration: Hjalte Josefsen

High up in the tower of the Scandic Palace Hotel at the City Hall Square in Copenhagen, a remote-controlled camera is mounted with the lens aimed at the finish line of Tour de France’s first stage. When the sweaty cyclists cross the finish line tomorrow afternoon/evening, the footage will be sent directly to TV2’s production centre with the help of completely new 5G technology.

With a special modem, the camera can receive the so-called millimetre waves, which are transmitted over a special frequency, from an antenna on the other side of the City Hall Square. This gives TV2 the opportunity to test the technology in collaboration with TDC NET.

“We want to examine and help set the standard for the deployment of 5G. That’s why it’s interesting that we can start introducing the technology with a big event like Tour de France,” says Morten Brandstrup, Head of News Technology at TV2.

With the millimetre waves, it is possible to achieve a speed of 4 Gbps, which is about double the speed that TDC NET managed to achieve prior to the launch of the 5G technology. This means that more data can be sent from the same mast at high speeds. At the same time, the delay is lower than on other frequencies.

Upgraded mobile phone masts

Today, Danish telecommunications companies primarily use the 700 MHz frequency band for 5G coverage, and the 3.5 GHz range in large cities for faster 5G connections.

However, millimetre wave technology uses a different frequency of 26 GHz, which is why it is possible to transmit at such a high speed.

Essentially, a radio is mounted on TDC’s existing transmission mast, while TV2’s camera high up in the tower is connected to a modem that can connect the camera to the mast.

The upgraded transmission mast sits directly opposite, on top of the building that belongs to the Confederation of Danish Industry. Illustration: Hjalte Josefsen

The disadvantage of millimetre waves, however, is that they have difficulty penetrating buildings, and have a shorter range than other 5G technology. This imposes some restrictions on use.

“It’s especially suitable for outdoor areas where many people are gathered. That’s why the City Hall Square is a good place to try out the technology,” says Michael Fränkle, Executive Vice President and Head of Technology at TDC NET.

Higher bandwidth and less delay

For TV2, the millimetre wave technology is interesting because it gives them a better option for uploading content they produce for the viewers.

“We get a higher bandwidth and a delay of just a few milliseconds. That’s more than enough for us,” Morten Brandstrup says.

From the top of the Scandic Palace Hotel, there is a good view of the finish line on H. C. Andersens Boulevard. Illustration: Hjalte Josefsen

At the same time, the technology makes it possible to place the TV equipment in a much more flexible way. When the TV station covers events, they often have to use the options already available in the urban space, and it is much easier when no cables have to be laid.

“We are now here at City Hall Square and have the infrastructure on one side, but would like camera footage from the other side. It would be completely impossible to lay a cable across the square. So the millimetre wave technology can be used as an extension of the fibre network,” Morten Brandstrup says.

Commercially available only in the US

If TV2 wants to really put the technology to use, it needs to become more widespread. It would otherwise be too expensive and cumbersome to get the right modem to receive the frequency.

A special modem is needed to use the 26 GHz frequency. Because the technology is not currently commercially used in Europe, it is difficult to obtain outside the US.

While TV2 can connect to the 26 GHz frequency, the other spectators at the City Hall Square will have to be content with the regular 5G coverage.

Thus, it is also difficult to say what the future perspectives for the technology are in Denmark. The device that can receive the 26 GHz signal needs to become more widespread in Danish customers’ phones. Ultimately, it depends on whether manufacturers choose to invest in the technology.

“There are already a lot of different frequencies and standards when it comes to phones. Therefore, we need to make sure that the manufacturers don’t overload their devices. But ideally, it should be possible to receive all frequencies on all phones,” Michael Fränkle says.

Although it is still unclear whether the technology will become common in mobile phones, TDC NET plans to build at least 100 5G sites with millimetre wave technology. The telecommunications company has committed itself to this when it invested in its share of the 26 GHz frequency band.