February 1, 2023
Vodafone Launches 5G Standalone Trial To Unlock The True Power Of Digital
Vodafone has begun inviting customers to join a trial network for 5G Standalone (5G SA), the first time in the UK customers will be able to experience “full” 5G.
The trial is a limited, controlled experience enabling the mobile operator to test and demonstrate the full potential of 5G to its selected customers across the country.
This is a very important step forward on the way to creating a digital platform for innovation across every sector of the UK.
How is 5G SA different?
5G Standalone is a totally separate network, independent of the 4G network that the current 5G is built on. So, in future, users will benefit from much higher speeds, lower latency (buffering), and increased reliability and security.
It will enable many more “things” (Internet of Things) – anything from autonomous vehicles to building monitoring sensors, from smartphones to smart traffic lights – to be connected simultaneously. And because it is ‘cloud-native’, it can be updated and managed much more easily.
Ultimately, 5G SA, when it comes at scale, will enable Vodafone and other mobile operators to do things that are not possible on current 4G networks – it will fast-track the digitisation of business and society.
But why is this important?
5G SA should be viewed as a vehicle for innovation and greater prosperity across the UK. If digital is to be a platform for economic success and levelling up the country and society, we have to make sure that new technology is rolled out as quickly and as widely as possible.
For example, 5G SA could support an intelligent transport system where congestion is all but eliminated; a futuristic, digitalised healthcare system which is more joined-up and focused on prevention; artificial intelligence that augments human skills and really adds value to our economy.
This trial is a stepping-stone towards this digitally connected ecosystem which will enable businesses and public sector organisations to thrive, innovate and improve the lives of people across the UK.
So why isn’t 5G Standalone everywhere?
From a technical perspective, Vodafone has been working with its partner Ericsson over the last year to build a 5G core network. This is one of the final steps, but we also have to upgrade equipment on each mast site, as 5G makes use of different spectrum frequencies than 4G.
But making these upgrades to deliver this network is very expensive. So, Vodafone is figuring out how it is going to invest in 5G SA in a sustainable and commercially viable way. And most importantly, how it is going to ensure it is accessible to everyone, not just the major towns and cities.
The roll-out is a significant financial commitment for the telecoms industry, and Vodafone cannot do it alone. Support is needed from the Government and regulators.
This could take the form of providing low-interest loans; reforming regulation around net neutrality; encouraging public procurement of 5G services; or reducing barriers to roll-out. Industry consolidation also has an important role to play in providing the scale necessary to invest.
A flavour of what is to come
The 5G SA trial is certainly very exciting and gives customers a taste of what tomorrow’s telecoms networks could be like.
But it is only a trial in a number of cities with a handful of eligible devices. It shows what will be possible. But to deliver on the full potential of 5G SA – and to create that brighter digital future for all – we’ll need help creating the right investment and regulatory environment.
Vodafone’s original press release can be found here.
About Building Mobile Britain
Building Mobile Britain is a campaign created by Mobile UK seeking to work with national and local government, as well as interested industry groups to overcome the challenges we face with expanding the existing mobile networks, while also developing innovative services for customers.
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Head of Policy and Communications
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