Taking in the spectacular view atop Mount Machinchang in Langkawi Island has always been a breathtaking experience for tourists who can easily enjoy the mountain peak with the existing skybridge cable car, but Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) wanted to make it easier, by bringing the mountain peak view to its airport’s doorstep, metaphorically.
Leveraging on 5G technology, MAHB partners Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd to showcase a piece of Langkawi’s heritage to tourists right from the moment they arrive at Langkawi International Airport (LGK).
A cable car gondola and a virtual reality (VR) experiential zone set up at the airport allow visitors to enjoy a 360-degree view of Gunung Machinchang, live-streamed from 20 kilometres away via a camera mounted at the Langkawi SkyCab middle station, where the world’s steepest cable car ride takes one 708m above sea level.
MAHB senior general manager for commercial services Nazli Aziz hopes that with this 5G-enabled virtual tourism, Langkawi visitors would fall in love with the island’s attractions ‘at first sight’.
“For us, as the main gateway to Malaysia, we want guests to come to the country and be in love at the first sight,” he said in an interview recently.
Nazli said with real-time technology like this, MAHB could give tourist a good impression on local attractions, and the extra mileage for Visit Malaysia Year 2020 (VMY2020).
He also said the potential of 5G for airport operation goes beyond virtual tourism, and MAHB hopes to explore more use cases that could take advantage of the technology’s superspeed and ultra-reliable low latency connectivity.
“Take retail for example, the way people shop today is totally different. With technology, brands can give consumers an immersive experience. In the future, passengers using 5G smartphones will be able to interact with products in stores via augmented reality. You can try it today but it’s slow. We can also better plan our inventory to give us better stock churn. One of the sins in retail is empty shelves, which is happening more often these days, but for good reason, because of bulk purchases by tourists from China,” he said.
“With technology, the whole experience at the airport, not just retail, will be more streamlined,” he added.
Apart from being an airport operator, Nazli said MAHB envisions to be a service leader by providing joyful experiences and promoting the airport as a lifestyle destination on its own, no longer a mere transportation hub.
“Among the many initiatives taken to improve the passenger experience include elevating the airport ambience and providing a ‘sense of Malaysia’ to give a first and lasting impression to international passengers at the airport; and for local passengers and meeters and greeters alike to have an opportunity to appreciate the local tourists attractions,” he said.
The VR experiential zone in LGK enables visitors to admire real-time, ultra-high definition views on Mount Machinchang with no lag or delay. This 5G virtual tourism experience, which is open to the public until March 2020, is projected to provide a new immersive and integrated travel experience for tourists.
The Langkawi 5G virtual tourism pilot is in line with the country’s calling in building a 5G ecosystem alongside partners, as well as corresponding with Tourism Malaysia’s VMY2020 effort in promoting the tourism sector.
Digi’s chief corporate affairs Joachim Rajaram also said 5G technology will bring limitless possibility for Malaysia at all front.
“Once it [5G] is matured and rolled out, possibilities for the [tourism] industry is just tremendous. Virtual tourism is one big vertical, but there are many verticals, like agriculture, security system management to monitor the coast in real time using drones and cameras, traffic management and smart cities.
“So 5G gives us the limitless opportunities to drive verticals development in technology before it eventually becomes a consumer offering,” he said.
After Langkawi, Joachim said the next potential VR experiential zone could be established at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL) and Penang International Airport.
“It looks likely that we will do something right here in KUL, because Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is taking 5G in clusters, they done Putrajaya first, now in Langkawi, the next stop is in Penang, so likely we will also look at Penang,” he said.
“With VMY2020, there are a lot of tourists coming in, and a lot of opportunities for all of us. When they land and before they get to their destinations, they can experience it first, so the possibilities are endless, and all of us got to be a part of it.
To really drive VM2020, apart from the airport and tourism provider, technology providers could also help to promote and showcase Malaysia through the latest technology,” he added.
This showcase is part of Digi’s use case in the 5G Demonstration Projects (5GDP), undertaken by the MCMC to facilitate, develop and foster 5G use cases in a live but controlled environment.
The LGK test site is the first of two on the island, with the second located at Langkawi Hospital. The 5G site located near the terminal operates on a spectrum of 3.4-3.5GHz (C-band) of 100MHz bandwidth with a speed of 1.2Gbps.