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MWC 2019: O2 to launch 5G by Christmas

Ahead of Mobile World Congress, operator O2 has revealed further details of how it is planning for the advent of 5G

Telefónica-backed mobile operator O2 will launch a consumer 5G mobile network service in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast by the end of 2019, and will begin its network roll-out in other parts of the UK early in 2020.

As the race towards usable 5G networks begins in earnest, O2 CEO Mark Evans said he wanted the operator’s proposition to “launch with a bang”.

“5G is a promise of so much more – for consumers, business, industry and public services,” he said. “O2 is working in partnership with British industry, encouraging businesses big and small to engage with the possibilities of 5G technology through both our testbed programme and launch deployment.”

Last summer, Evans wrote to every FTSE 100 chief executive in the country seeking support to build a consensus around business use cases for 5G, and to seek outside investment. Following high levels of engagement, he explained how O2 planned to build a so-called “5G Economy” in coalition with British businesses.

A number of leading construction firms, retailers, transport operators and utility firms have teamed up with O2 in the intervening months, exploring a number of use cases that Evans expects to bring substantial benefits, such as efficiency savings and new revenue streams.

O2 is now rolling out 5G innovation spaces around the UK, including in its Wayra accelerator hubs to provide 5G test environments for smaller businesses.

“Following the demand from our FTSE 100 trials, we are extending our testbed opportunities so that businesses of all sizes can work with us to build the 5G Economy,” said Evans.

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“Mobile is one of the UK’s most powerful opportunities to strengthen our economy and improve the lives of British people, and 5G is a significant milestone for this nation.”

The operator has also been working alongside its Spanish parent to gain access to insights and expertise from Telefónica’s global innovation programme.

Telefónica is currently running 5G testbeds in Málaga, Segovia and Talavera de la Reina, running live testing grounds to develop use cases around assisted driving and autonomous vehicles, augmented, mixed and virtual reality, and immersive live broadcasting and “infotainment”.

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