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MWC 2019: 5G smartphones go live on Vodafone network

Vodafone has connected three 5G-enabled smartphones to a live network during trials in Spain

Vodafone has successfully connected three prototype 5G smartphones to a live 5G mobile network installation in the cities of Madrid and Barcelona during a four-week trial ahead of the upcoming Mobile World Congress (MWC) trade fair.

The trials included a demonstration of seamless 4K video calling over 5G, which promises initial mobile broadband download speeds of 1.5Gbps – up to 10 times faster than what is possible on an existing 4G network – when commercial roll-outs begin towards the end of 2019.

The devices and network were fully compliant with the most recent (December 2018) version of the 3GPP’s industry standard for non-standalone 5G, Release 15, said Vodafone.

The operator will be demonstrating its live 5G network on the streets of Barcelona during next week’s show at the city’s gargantuan Fira congress centre, driving a vehicle through the city to measure and report on the network.

“Vodafone’s networks are increasingly ready for 5G, which will enable us to deliver significant benefits over time for consumers, businesses and society,” said Vodafone group CTO, Johan Wibergh.

“Our focus now is on optimising the customer experience before we launch 5G in some European cities later this year.”

Among the cities being targeted for Vodafone’s initial launch are Manchester in the UK, where earlier in February it turned on a live 5G network at Manchester Airport to enable holidaymakers leaving the country for the half-term break to download movies and TV box sets to watch during their flights.

The operator set up a so-called 5G “Blast Pod” at Manchester’s Terminal 1, and gave users free entertainment passes on the Now TV streaming service. With 5G handsets not yet commercially available, users accessed the 5G service through a portable 5G ready-router called the “Gigacube”.

Meanwhile, in Italy, the operator has invested €90m (£78.3m) to build a 5G network covering 80% of the city of Milan. Working with local industrial and public sector partners, it has now tested 31 different 5G use cases. These include a connected ambulance developed alongside the city’s San Raffaele hospital, a live news broadcast with Sky, and a self-driving robot book delivery service at the Polytechnic University of Milan.

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