Vodafone claims UK’s first holographic call, plans 1000 5G base stations

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At its ‘Future Ready’ Conference in Newbury yesterday (September 20th, 2018) Vodafone showed off its 5G prowess by conducting what it claims was the UK’s first ever live holographic call using 5G technology.

The call was carried out between the operator’s Manchester office and Newbury headquarters, and featured England women’s football captain Steph Houghton MBE appearing on stage in hologram form to give football tips to 11 year old fan Iris via the HoloLens virtual reality headset.  You can see the exchange in the YouTube video below:

Although dismissed by some as a bit of  gimmick, Vodafone insisted that it points to exciting possibilities that next-generation mobile technology can bring to sport, such as remote coaching and training, as well as opportunities for richer interaction with fans.

“Vodafone has a history of firsts in UK telecoms – we made the nation’s first mobile call, sent the first text and now we’ve conducted the UK’s first holographic call using 5G,” said Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery. 

Vodafone also confirmed that in the coming weeks it will switch on 5G trials in the first of its city test beds, following end-to-end 5G testing at its Newbury-based laboratory.

Manchester and Birmingham will be the first of Vodafone’s seven UK 5G test cities to go live. It will also roll out 5G to popular UK holiday destinations such as Cornwall and the Lake District during 2019, so the UK’s cities aren’t the only places to benefit.

The infrastructure and technology is already in place to support 5G, claims the operator. Vodafone was the first company in Europe to introduce Multiple Antenna (Massive MIMO) – an important building block of 5G – to boost capacity. With the addition of Software Defined Network and Edge Computing layers, it says it will be able to bring the power of 5G closer to customers on a mass scale when compatible devices arrive. 

In addition to showcasing 5G, Vodafone also launched new initiatives and tariffs targeted at small businesses and entrepreneurs. These included a new digital incubator in Manchester; a £300,000 Techstarter award for innovative technology with a social purpose; and a mentorship programme in partnership with Oxford University Innovation called Bright Sparks.

Meanwhile, Vodafone UK’s retail and contact centre staff will be given the opportunity to learn coding via the operator’s new Code Ready scheme. The company is also launching the Vodafone Digital Degree, which combines a computer science degree from the University of Birmingham with a tech apprenticeship at Vodafone.

For small business customers, Vodafone also launched what it calls a self-optimising tariff that automatically moves subscribers to the most cost-effective plan and Gigacube, a mobile WiFi hotspot that supports up to 20 connections. 

“The initiatives we’ve launched today are designed to ensure that everyone can benefit from the digital technologies transforming how we live and work. From our customers and employees, to university students, digital entrepreneurs and businesses, we want to help people across the UK get ready for a digital future,” Jeffery said.

Chris Price