Vodafone became the second UK mobile operator to switch on its 5G network, following in the footsteps of telecoms rival EE.
Launching this Wednesday in London’s Sky Garden, Vodafone UK’s CEO Nick Jeffery welcomed British Formula One Champion Lewis Hamilton to the stage to countdown to the huge switch on at 12pm.
Vodafone’s 5G network is now live in seven UK cities including London, Birmingham and Manchester. The switch on was announced with the launch of unlimited data plans for customers, all at the same price as its current 4G data plans.
“It really is time to rip up the industry rulebook, because we don’t think it makes sense to limit people,” Nick Jeffery said on stage during the announcement. “We don’t want to put limits on our customers; we don’t want to put limits on their potential or on the digital potential of the UK.”
Referencing a report from Ofcom, Jeffery noted that Vodafone is recognised for its surplus geographic coverage across the UK.
“Vodafone UK is now back to revenue growth for the first time in five years,” he added. “So we’ve shaken things up, we’ve invested billions in the UK and we are getting the basics right, which is now why I believe it’s time for us to go further.
“And of course, we’re incredibly excited about 5G and what it can do for the UK, for people, for our customers and for businesses, and we believe 5G is going to play a critical role in the life of our country.”
Following the launch of Vodafone Unlimited, the network provider promised that its 5G network will enable more than just smartphone connectivity. According to Vodafone, its 5G technology will help to connected more devices and applications to the network to drive innovation.
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“I actually think 5G is about so much more than just that. It’s about the new devices that will be connected to our network, with consumers, augmented and virtual reality applications, online gaming devices, connected cities, connected buildings and health services that will bring new devices and capabilities on to our network infrastructure, ” Scott Petty, CTO at Vodafone UK said on the stage.
“I’m very confident that over the next few years we’ll see more things connected to our network than smartphones,” he added. “That will enable a set of new services that some of us can’t even imagine today.”
According to Petty, the core requirement to build national infrastructure applications, whether for health applications or autonomous vehicles, is security, which will provide solid foundations for a smooth 5G network for all use cases and applications.
“Improvements in encryption and security management virtualisation to the core network have enabled us to secure those services so much better than we can today. Base stations can talk to each other and we can manage service repositioning automatically,” he explained.
“With network slicing, next year we’ll be able to fully manage services across applications. 5G truly is ready for building business-critical applications, national infrastructure and health services, and the new reliability and security capabilities coming up,” Petty added.
Vodafone also confirmed that it is deploying Massive MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output) 64TR wireless network technology with its launch of 5G, meaning the network will support more devices connected to base stations.
“That’s giving us fantastic opportunities to understand how we leverage those technologies in the UK,” said Petty. “We invested heavily to turn on 5G as quickly as we could so people can start experimenting with 5G technologies.”
The network provider claims that it will launch the network in an additional 12 UK cities by the end of the year, with added 5G roaming across Spain, Italy and Germany.
Vodafone also announced it has partnered with cloud gaming platform Hatch to offer the first mobile game streaming service on 5G.
"The reason we turned on 5G is we passionately believe 5G can be transformational for rural communities," said Petty. "It can enable new services and give them access to capabilities that simply don’t exist today and we wanted to try that for real.
"So yes, 5G will bring speed and latency but what I’m really excited about is the new applications, services and reliability that will make 5G the preferred connectivity mechanism for most applications as we go forward over the next couple of year."