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Florida Suburb to Establish 5G, Further Become Tech Testing Site

Verizon will establish 5G in Lake Nona, and then Tavistock will create tech-testing programs that use the 5G. The Orlando suburb already has an autonomous shuttle, but officials are excited to be “a real-world testbed.”

(TNS) — Verizon will establish one of its first 5G “living labs” at Lake Nona, Florida, creating a place for the company to experiment and develop next-generation technologies while offering high-speed, wireless service to residents and workers who own capable devices.

That means the southeast Orlando community could become a launching point for some still-undetermined technologies, which some experts have said would likely take time to emerge after wider deployment of 5G-powered networks and devices.

That uncertainty is similar to the early days of 4G, when little was known of the network that eventually worked with more mature technologies such as GPS to power food delivery apps and rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft.

“We have yet to know the full understanding of what [5G] will enable,” Juan Santos, Tavistock’s senior vice president of innovation, said Wednesday. “But these applications will rely on real-time information.”

Lake Nona is already home to Beep, a company that has autonomous shuttles running a 1.2-mile route through the neighborhood.

While now they have the technology necessary to power self-driving vehicles, an expanded 5G could mean the vehicles would virtually “talk” to sensors deployed along its route to improve performance.

Verizon has so far installed one tower in Lake Nona capable of capturing a 5G signal emitted from phones and other devices, but the plan is to deploy enough to create a robust network by the end of the year.

Santos did not say how many towers that would mean for Lake Nona.

Once installed, Tavistock hopes to create programs for entrepreneurs who might want a proving ground for 5G-reliant technologies, he said.

“It’s a field where if we deploy the right ingredients, we provide the right infrastructure, coworking space, accelerator program and venture capital, we start to create the environment that fosters those entrepreneurs to look at us,” Santos said. “This is our bet on being very attractive to entrepreneurs. When people think of innovation in the U.S. right now, they are not thinking Central Florida.”

The mobile data speeds of base-level 5G networks will exceed the fastest home broadband network that consumers can have, according to data distributed by communications companies like T-Mobile.

There are three types of 5G, known as low band, mid-band and the band that will be installed at Lake Nona, known as millimeter waves. Low band has a greater range while millimeter waves transmit data at a super-fast rate but can be impeded by physical obstacles. That’s why these networks require more transmitters.

For Verizon, finding an innovative community to partner with has been part of its 5G strategy across the country.

Communications companies that have debuted 5G networks have so far generally kept them in limited geographical spaces such as stadiums.

“We’re excited to partner with a forward-thinking organization like Tavistock and Lake Nona to provide a real-world testbed for the innovative solutions we’ll deploy on top of our 5G Ultra Wideband network in 2020 and beyond,” Toby Redshaw, Verizon’s senior vice president for enterprise innovation and 5G solutions, said in a news release.

A 5G network, which can also handle more simultaneous users than 4G, will mean new capabilities. Santos agrees with many experts who say real-time medical treatments from remote locations will likely be one of the first to emerge.

He also says personalized entertainment, where perhaps a protagonist in a television show can be customized to the viewer in real time, could be an area of growth.

“You add the things Orlando has to offer — great airport, pro-business tax structure — and we think you will have the right ingredients to attract incredible talent,” Santos said.

©2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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