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Japan-Update

SoftBank demonstrates 5G chops with air hockey-playing robot

Wireless carriers stepping up their games ahead of technology's 2020 debut

SoftBank used a robotic arm Friday to show off its 5G wireless network.

TOKYO -- SoftBank gave reporters a taste of the future Friday by demonstrating what is possible with a fifth-generation wireless network.

Data sent over a 5G network travels so quickly that there is almost no time lag, and to emphasize that point, the Japanese wireless carrier showed off a robotic arm that can hold its own playing air hockey.

The robotic arm had no smarts of its own. Instead, it relied on information sent over a 5G network. A camera detected the position of the puck, a processor calculated the trajectory, and the results were sent over the network to the robot. With transmissions happening in almost real time, the robot had no problem striking the puck.

Data sent over a 5G network arrives with a lag of just 0.002 second, meaning 5G will shine in such applications as the control of automated equipment in factories and the control of drones, explained Ryuji Wakikawa, a senior director in charge of advanced technology development at SoftBank.

With an eye on the commercialization of 5G networks by around 2020, the world's leading wireless carriers are all working to polish their technologies and are forging partnerships with makers of telecommunications equipment.

SoftBank is conducting verification experiments of 5G technologies in partnership with four companies, including Huawei Technologies of China and Ericsson of Sweden.

On the same day as SoftBank's public demonstration, Japanese wireless carrier KDDI announced that it will collaborate with Ericsson to conduct 5G verification experiments using a new frequency band. The company said the testing will begin sometime during this fiscal year.

(Nikkei)

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