Vodafone confirmed to the mobile operator that the first “Experience“Customers can now connect to one of the UK’s first deployments of Standalone (SA’s) ultra-fast cloud-based 5G network, which is being built across parts of several cities including London, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Bath, Glasgow and Birmingham.
At present, the current 5G deployments in the UK tend to be used up Is not independent Devices and Systems (NSA), which is still capable of delivering impressive mobile broadband download speeds, but is often hampered by some reliance on existing 4G services.
The way to solve this problem is to move to a pure 5G network (SA), which will also provide improvements such as extremely low (fast) response times, better upload speeds, network segmentation capabilities, better support for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and increased reliability and security.
Regular readers may recall that the operator first began testing a smaller (and more limited) 5G SA test network in London, Manchester and Cardiff during mid-2021 (here), but this was not intended for customers and this has now been expanded into much wider field trials. Selected customers are now being invited to take part in the trial across London, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Bath, Glasgow and Birmingham.
The trial itself is currently still a limited and controlled trial, enabling Vodafone to test and prove the full potential of 5G. Trial listings must have a Samsung Galaxy S21/S22 smartphone or OPPO Find X3/X5 Pro to be accepted.
Starting an app is a huge financial commitment to the telecom industry, and we can’t do it alone. We need support from the government and regulators.
This can take the form of offering low-interest loans; reforming regulations on net neutrality; encouraging public procurement of 5G services; or reduce barriers to application deployment. Industry consolidation also plays an important role in providing the necessary scope for investment.
The new network is supported by systems and services from Ericsson, including the new 5G core network. But rolling out 5G SA across the UK would be a much slower and more expensive process, as it would require them to upgrade equipment at each of their mast sites. Part of the experience is not only testing the network and its capabilities, but also figuring out how to deploy the new technology in a commercially viable way.
We should point out that Virgin Media O2 and EE are also preparing for 5G SA upgrades with their own trials, although at the moment Vodafone seems to be leading the pack a bit with both OpenRAN and 5G SA. As for Three UK, they haven’t said much about 5G SA and don’t seem at the moment to prioritize it as much as their competitors. Three of them now have a lead in 5G speeds and have good coverage, but that could be eroded if they let competitors get ahead with 5G SA.