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O2 extends 5G network, hits 10,000 mark for LTE-M in UK

Operator says network technologies will revolutionise the way people and businesses use mobile connectivity, unlocking huge possibilities for the UK’s economy and society

UK mobile operator O2 has broadened the reach of both its 5G and LTE-M (Long Term Evolution, category M1) networks, claiming two major network milestones that will provide different but complementary services to benefit customers and help rebuild the UK in a time of unprecedented reliance on network connectivity.

The O2 5G network was first switched on in the UK in October 2019 and the operator committed to offering 5G capability to 50 towns and cities by the summer of 2020. Its next-generation network is now live in 60 towns and cities in the UK, adding the likes of Aberdeen, Brighton and Oxford to the locations covered.

O2 sees its next-generation 5G network as crucial in developing the national digital infrastructure, helping customers and businesses to support the economy as the UK emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 5G network infrastructure is being rolled out in partnership with primary essential communications technology providers Nokia and Ericsson. O2’s extended partnership with Ericsson includes hardware, software and service upgrades in the west of the UK, bringing greater coverage, voice and data capacity, and will see products from the Ericsson Radio System portfolio deployed in the O2 5G radio access network (RAN).

It will also include new multi-band and wide-band 5G radios, as well as new 5G-optimised basebands to build sustainable sites in preparation for future increases in 5G coverage and capacity. The 5G network supplements, rather than replaces, the 4G network O2 currently offers in 19,185 cities, towns and villages across the UK and, up to the end of May 2020, it had upgraded 4G capacity in 90,954 UK postcodes.

O2’s 5G announcement comes as it also announced that it had reached 10,000 sites for its first-to-market LTE-M network, which will power internet of things (IoT) devices and which the operator says will lay the foundation for the UK’s smart cities, businesses and homes.

The LTE-M sites are now live across the east of the UK and are designed to allow customers and businesses to make the most of next-gen IoT technologies in their day-to-day lives. The new network will cover 57% of premises and 58% of the UK population and will allow potentially billions of devices to be connected to the internet to collect and share data.

Typical use cases cited for the O2 LTE-M technology include utilities, logistics, industry and manufacturing.

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For utilities, O2 envisages mass adoption of sensors that monitor infrastructure to improve industry efficiencies, such as gas and water meters – including smart meter tracking and pipeline monitoring – or micro generation monitoring the status of wind, solar or thermal generation equipment with sensors.

O2 chief technology officer Brendan O’Reilly said connectivity is now one of the UK’s most valued services, and technologies such as 5G and LTE-M will revolutionise the way people and businesses use mobile connectivity, unlocking huge possibilities for the economy and society.

“Customer-centric networks, underpinned by 5G and LTE-M technologies, will help power this country into recovery as we look to rebuild Britain,” he said. “As the UK faces an uncertain year ahead, it is vital that we continue to invest in new innovations and technologies to keep Britain mobile and connected.”

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