Can I get 5G? Vodafone announces trials in seven cities including London, Birmingham

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Vodafone UK has unveiled seven cities that will become 5G test areas, with roll-outs starting between October and December this year. It includes customers in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester.

They form part of the company’s investment in building a world-class network infrastructure to support Gigabit UK, a nation where people will enjoy ultra-fast connection speeds of one gigabit per second on the move, at home or at work.

Vodafone engineers are already laying the groundwork for 5G at more than 40 sites in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester. Discussions with a number of enterprise customers are also underway, with a view to testing new 5G applications such as augmented and virtual reality in offices, factories and hospitals. 

Vodafone is able to commit to this comprehensive 5G trial after winning the largest block of 5G spectrum in the recent auction and having conducted the first UK test of this spectrum across a live network.  The upcoming trials are designed to ensure that it’s ready for the commercial launch of full 5G, which is expected to arrive early in 2020 to coincide with a wide choice of compatible phones and devices.

Gigabit UK programme involves offering customers superior fixed broadband using gigabit-capable ‘full fibre’ connections all the way to people’s homes and offices. It has named seven cities – Aberdeen, Coventry, Edinburgh, Huddersfield, Milton Keynes, Peterborough and Stirling – to receive Vodafone Gigafast Broadband, starting towards the end of 2018.

Both 5G and Vodafone Gigafast Broadband services will be connected by an all optical fibre core network called RedStream, which currently links 1,300 broadband exchanges and nearly 1,600 other locations such as retail parks, new builds and business premises. Vodafone recently tested new ‘photonic’ technology capable of carrying information over the core network at speeds of up to 400 Gigabits per second. 

Says Vodafone UK Chief Executive Nick Jeffery:

“We want to make 5G and new fibre broadband services available to consumers and business throughout the UK, delivering a Gigabit society for all.  We will also be bringing ultra-fast 4G to several hundred sites in hard to reach rural areas this year, building on our position as the network that offers the best voice coverage in the UK.”

Commenting on the announcement Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at uSwitch.com, adds: 

“It’s great to see Vodafone rolling out 5G trials in seven cities across the UK, setting the stage for faster speeds in these urban hotspots. Vodafone won the largest block of spectrum in the latest 5G auction and their rapid deployment is a sure sign that providers won’t be seen napping on this next-generation infrastructure.”

“These trials will act as a launchpad for the all-important commercial rollout of full 5G which is where the technology should really reach its potential. It’s also exciting that Vodafone’s Gigabit UK programme has pinpointed seven cities to receive full-fibre broadband from the end of the year.  This will certainly benefit parts of the UK that have been languishing in the slow-lane – such as Stirling, the location for one of the slowest streets for broadband in the UK.

“This announcement marks a big moment in the rollout of 5G, but looking ahead it’s up to the industry to make sure that it’s not just these urban centres that feel the benefits. This technology should be truly universal, not just available in the areas with the highest concentration of customers.”

Chris Price