Vodafone claims UK standalone 5G first

UK operator says standalone wireless technology will support capabilities such as network slicing, bringing efficiency benefits in mission-critical services

Almost exactly a year after it switched on the next-generation 5G infrastructure in seven UK cities, Vodafone is claiming a milestone in the country’s 5G industry with standalone technology.

The operator currently offers 5G to 37 more places in the UK and has also built 5G in 70 locations across Ireland, Italy, Germany and Spain. Yet in the next phase of its 5G strategy, demonstrated by a new network built for Coventry University, Vodafone says it is offering a first look at the technology that will deliver the promised transformational “true” benefits of 5G, including factory automation and mission-critical services.

These are said to include ultra-low latency, guaranteed speed performance, and the internet of things on an unprecedented scale.

More specifically, Vodafone regards standalone 5G’s network slicing capability, which enables mobile operators to offer customers dedicated portions of their network with guaranteed performance, as crucial for the introduction of 5G into industries such as manufacturing.

Ultra-reliable, low-latency communications will also be a key part of bringing about efficiency benefits such as full factory automation, and will enable mission-critical services that could enhance the performance of autonomous vehicles.

Other advantages are said to be seen in edge computing, bringing computing power closer to the customer, leading to much quicker network response times, which are vital for virtual and augmented reality technologies in the workplace.

To deliver the standalone 5G network at Coventry, Vodafone teamed up with long-standing 5G technology development partners Ericsson, MediaTek, OPPO and Qualcomm. To support the university’s 5G ambitions further, Vodafone has also installed Ericsson’s 5G Radio Dot System in the university’s Disruptive Media Learning Lab and National Transport Design Centre. The indoor technology will deliver fast, high-capacity 5G in key buildings to support its innovative teaching and learning.

Describing the demonstration as a landmark in the company’s 5G journey, Scott Petty, chief technology officer at Vodafone UK, said: “5G today is all about capacity and increased speeds. It’s giving people the best mobile experience ever, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg of what 5G can do. With this new live network, we’re demonstrating the future potential of 5G and how it will be so valuable to the UK economy.

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“This new phase of 5G starts to deliver on the incredible capabilities of 5G that have had so much attention, but haven’t yet been brought to life. From here, we will really start to see 5G make a difference to the way organisations think about being connected, and what is possible with connectivity in the future.”

Coventry University will use the new 5G network to trial state-of-the-art virtual reality learning technologies to support training for student nurses and allied health professionals, as part of its ambition to be the leading university for 5G-enabled technology.

“We are delighted to be working with Vodafone to house the UK’s first standalone 5G network,” said vice-chancellor John Latham. “This will help us continue to change and enhance the way students learn.

“Being the first university in the UK to have this next phase of 5G technology is the first step on our journey to creating a 5G campus, and we will soon be able to reveal how we will use this technology to maximise the potential of virtual reality teaching for our health and life sciences students.”

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