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Vodafone will switch on a 5G network on the Isles of Scilly next week, at the same time as it launches its live consumer 5G service in London – just three years after it first brought 4G to the remote islands 45 kilometres off Cornwall’s southwest coast.
The operator last year pledged to launch its 5G service in rural areas at the same time as its urban 5G network, unlike EE and Three, which are both focusing primarily on 5G in urban areas at first – though EE has also set up a temporary 5G network for the 2019 Glastonbury Festival.
Vodafone said its 5G network would bring immediate benefits to the islands, boosting tourism and giving islanders, local schools and the health centre access to online services usually only available to people on the mainland.
“5G is a game changer for the Isles of Scilly as it will provide the local community with much improved access to important online services,” said Scott Petty, chief technology officer at Vodafone UK.
It has also signed a two-year 5G sponsorship with the smallest football league in the world, the islands’ St Mary’s Association Football Club, which comprises just two teams, Garrison Gunners and Woolpack Wanderers, which play each other over 20 times a year.
The league will use 5G both to stream games to the remoter islands, and to launch a world-first crowdsourced fan-assisted referee system for the 2019/20 season, allowing anybody with a compatible smartphone to become a remote ref and have their say on disputed penalties, goals or red cards. Players, meanwhile, plan to use it to access augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) training tools, and are getting redesigned kits into the bargain.
“This is a big deal – not just for the league, but for everyone. We are delighted that this long-term partnership respects the heritage of the league yet brings it into the 21st century,” said league chairman Anthony Gibbons.
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“The teams are buzzing over their new kits and are looking forward to playing in front of bigger crowds online. Above all, the improved communications will hopefully help stem the flow of young people leaving the island permanently and attract more visitors.
“I’m also delighted that Vodafone is teaming up with the local football club, which brings people together,” he said. “By combining it with our technology, we can promote this wonderful archipelago on the world stage.”
Vodafone’s wider 5G network will be launched on the morning of 3 July 2019 at a special event in London, with initial availability in seven cities around the country, as well as the Isles of Scilly. A further 12 towns and cities are set to receive the service this year.