A recent SK Telecom trial of its mmWave 5G network saw a connected BMW achieve peak speed of 3.6 Gbps while it was traveling at 170 kilometers per hour (105.6 miles per hour). The trial’s results, announced on Tuesday, were the result of a partnership between the South Korean telecommunications company, the automaker, and Ericsson.

The trial was conducted at a BMW test track in Yeongjong Island, Incheon, South Korea, where the three companies began working on multi-vehicular 5G trials last November. The environment for the trial used the 28 GHz frequency band to attain the connection speed.

According to a press release, the high data speeds achieved in the test could help connected vehicles with compute-intensive tasks like image recognition. It could also help these vehicles better communicate with one another, and with other connected devices. The image recognition tasks explained in the release, such as understanding traffic lights, seem to point to this technology potentially being used in autonomous vehicles as well.

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One of the focal points of these trials was to demonstrate how applying functions such as beam tracking could help circumvent some of the limitations that are present in using millimeter wave bands, the release said. Beamforming and beam tracking help to unblock signal paths and lead to better connectivity.

“Uninterrupted connectivity, using beam tracking and beam transfer across the different transmission points at speeds exceeding 100 kilometers per hour is also achieved,” an Ericsson press release noted. “The performance shown enables multiple connected car use cases such as augmented and virtual reality, obstacle control and vehicle to vehicle communication, based on a system solution including radio and core network infrastructure from Ericsson.”

In addition to AR and VR uses cases, the SK Telecom press release mentioned that achieving such high speeds with millimeter waves could also impact drones and robots. Examples given by the press release include VR content played on a moving city bus, or a drone being used to broadcast video of disaster areas in real time. It also noted potential improvements to 4K video and 3D video services.

The news of the connected BMW trial follows SK Telecom’s January announcement that it was planning to build a new ICT Ecosystem to address topics like connected cars, autonomous vehicles, AI, big data, smart homes, energy management, and more.

“Connected car is regarded as the barometer for 5G as it can only be realized through the combination of all 5G technologies,” the SK Telecom release said. “As ultra-high speed and ultra-low latency are prerequisites for realizing autonomous driving and immersive media services, the 3.6 Gpbs transmission speed we successfully demonstrated today not only brings us a step closer to realizing autonomous driving, but will also have a great impact on a broader range of industries.”

On Monday, SK Telecom also announced that it would be deploying its IoT network in Thailand as well.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. SK Telecom, Ericsson, and BMW achieved 3.6 Gbps on a connected BMW in a recent 5G network trial in South Korea.
  2. The speeds were achieved while the car was traveling 106 miles per hour, utilizing beamforming and beam tracking functions to do so.
  3. The trial’s results could have implications for connected and autonomous cars, but also for AR, VR, AI, and robotics, SK Telecom said.