Vodafone has switched on its first full 5G mobile network trial site in the UK at Salford in Greater Manchester, claiming this marks the first time 5G traffic has been carried over a live, customer-facing commercial network in the UK.
Up to now, the operator claimed, tests have taken place either within a single location, or used elements of the existing 4G network infrastructure to complete the service.
Earlier this month, rival EE switched on its first 5G site at Canary Wharf in London’s Docklands, exploring how the technology would work in areas where demand for network capacity was likely to be extreme.
Vodafone’s site covers MediaCityUK and the surrounding area, offering media, tech firms and startups in the area the chance to test out 5G mobile services. It forms part of a wider trial covering seven cities that Vodafone is currently in the process of setting up.
“We are leading the roll-out of 5G across the UK, starting with Greater Manchester. A further six cities – Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool and London – will shortly receive full 5G too. Next year, we will bring 5G to the Scottish Highlands, Cornwall and the Lake District, among other locations,” said Vodafone UK chief executive Nick Jeffery.
The test site relies on active antenna (massive MIMO) technology to provide multiple data channels from one antenna using some of the 3.4GHz spectrum that Vodafone secured at the Ofcom mobile spectrum auction in spring 2018.
Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK
From spring 2019, it will open an innovation centre and digital incubator in Salford – in partnership with MediaCityUK and the office of the mayor of Greater Manchester – which will be kitted out with 5G wireless routers, gigabit-capable optical fibre links and internet of things (IoT) services to demonstrate future mobile services to companies and organisations in the area, which are being invited to register their interest in taking part.
The innovation centre will also be opened up to winners of Vodafone Techstarter, a £300,000 fund through a partnership with its charitable arm, the Vodafone Foundation, and Social Tech Trust, one of the UK’s leading supporters of ventures that employ technology for social good.
“We have worked closely with the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to help ensure the city is not only an economic powerhouse, but also a digital powerhouse. That is why we are making a multimillion pound investment to offer world-class communications to Greater Manchester’s thriving media and tech community, consumers and our own 1,000 or so employees who work there,” said Jeffery.