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Vodafone launches 5G across UK with roaming to Europe

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Vodafone has switched on its 5G network in seven cities across the UK and has claimed to be the nation's first provider to offer 5G roaming in four European countries over the summer.

In a 5G announcement, Vodafone stated that customer mobile data usage is increasing at a rate of 50% year-on-year, and defined 5G as “Wifi-like speeds on the go” able to allow people and applications to “interact, seamlessly, over the mobile network with no ‘lag’ or delay”. 

EE was the first network operator to launch 5G in the UK. It initially focused on six cities, London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester, providing 5G speeds of around 100-150Mbps.

Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and London have been chosen by Vodafone as its initial flagship cities in the UK, with Formula 1 Five-Time World Champion, Lewis Hamilton, officially switching on the network.The company claims that it presently provides live 5G to 27 countries across Europe.

Twelve other towns and cities, including Newbury – the home of Vodafone UK’s technology headquarters – will also see 5G from today with more places going live throughout the year. In addition, Vodafone’s first rural 5G mast on the Isles of Scilly goes live today.

Two rugby players tackling one other, feeling every heave and shove, but one was in Coventry and the other was in London! The almost zero lag of our 5G network made this world first #5Gamechanger possible. Learn more on our website:https://t.co/MDzhw3Xrj8 pic.twitter.com/0h8zE3TXn1 — Vodafone UK News (@VodafoneUKComms) July 3, 2019


In London, Ericsson will provide comprehensive 5G coverage based on its latest radio system product portfolio, allowing for speeds up to 10 times faster than 4G for 5G users with much lower latency using 3.5GHz frequency combined with LTE.

Ericsson Radio System’s spectrum sharing functionality will also enable Vodafone to extend 5G coverage over a wide area, leveraging 4G spectrum on existing Ericsson infrastructure.

Upon the launch earlier today, Marielle Lindgren, UK & Ireland CEO of Ericsson, said: “The UK has taken a leading role in launching 5G services early while much of Europe lags behind, slowed by local regulation. This early advantage likely pays dividends, with superior connectivity forecasted to make a contribution of around £300bn to the UK economy by 2030 according to independent research commissioned by Ericsson.”

Scott Petty, Chief Technology Officer, Vodafone UK, commented: “Today, we are switching on 5G in seven UK cities, including London. Backed by our largest ever investment in the capital and new unlimited data plans, in partnership with Ericsson we are enabling Londoners to access an ultra-fast 5G and 4G network without any limits.”

Craig McMillan, EMEA systems engineering director at Ciena – a networking and telco supplier that has worked with Vodafone on preparing its infrastructure for 5G, said there was “no doubt” that the 5G rollout would bring “many exciting new services and applications”.

However, he warned that wireless connectivity is “only part of the equation” in producing greater download speeds and reduced latency, with wireline networks also needing to be factored in.

“You can have an incredible wireless signal, but if the wireline network is not able to process your request end-to-end then performance will suffer,” said McMillan. “The rollout of 5G has ramped up the need for operators to invest and support in the network infrastructure, and providers that achieve this by introducing adaptive networks will flourish.”

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In accordance with Ericsson's 5G Consumer Potential report findings, access to 5G connectivity is hotly anticipated by UK consumers, who expect to use 10-12 times more mobile data on average on new 5G devices. Vodafone UK’s 5G launch will be welcomed by the four out of every ten subscribers identified by the research who face issues caused by network congestion in crowded and dense urban areas.

Vodafone’s 5G announcement stated that a “growing anticipation” for 5G within the business community had led it to find that 60% of start-ups believe 5G will help them compete against more established rivals.

Additional figures from Vodafone’s research revealed that more than half (56%) of businesses expect 5G to change the way they operate, and 54% are more excited by 5G than any other new enterprise technology. A fifth (20%) think that 5G represents the single biggest opportunity of all current and developing technologies.

“5G is a game-changer for the economy and UK businesses,” said Anne Sheehan, business director of Vodafone UK. “We are committed to helping our customers take advantage of this technology by making it widely available in the UK and through roaming. We want to help UK businesses become global leaders and 5G will play an important role in achieving that aim.”

UK regulator Ofcom recently announced that Openreach’s infrastructure will be opened up to rival firms to encourage them to invest in full fibre and 5G.