As it embarks on its plan to merge with Three UK, mobile operator Vodafone is continuing its history of innovation in 5G networks. Three years after it first began investigating 5G network slicing in the UK, and just weeks after announcing it was the first UK telco to test such infrastructures for public use, it now says that it has become the first company in the UK to offer customers a 5G standalone.
Known as 5G Ultra, the service will add 5G standalone connectivity to the existing 5G network, giving a more reliable experience as well as greater 5G coverage and faster 5G speeds, which Vodafone claimed is around 10 times faster than 4G . The new network “switches seamlessly” between 4G, 5G or 5G Ultra to give customers “the most reliable connectivity experience available even in the busiest locations in the country”.
Specifically, Vodafone said more than a million additional UK customers can connect to Vodafone’s 5G network and that the infrastructure will support up to 25% longer battery life and offer up to three hours of improved battery performance. 5G Ultra will be available initially on Samsung S21 and S22 devices, with more to follow in July.
Vodafone customers in London, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff will be first to be able to access 5G Ultra and those with a compatible handset who signed up to a Pay Monthly contract after February 24 will have 5G Ultra added to their plan automatically, at no extra cost, as will all new and upgrading customers from now on.
A small number of people are already receiving 5G Ultra, and eligible customers will be added in a phased approach over summer. The Wimbledon Championships will be one of the first major events at which customers can benefit from the new 5G Standalone connectivity. Masts in the Wimbledon area have been upgraded to deliver the new service, including ones which provide coverage to the courts and the surrounding outdoor fan zones. The 5G Ultra service will also be available for Vodafone small office and home office (SOHO) business customers.
By launching 5G Ultra, Vodafone said it was driving innovation for consumers and businesses to create Europe’s leading 5G network. The recently proposed merger with Three UK would mean the merged company would have the scale to deliver 5G Standalone for more than 99% of the UK’s populated areas by 2034.
The operator stressed that the launch of 5G standalone could have a significant impact for businesses and consumers. It said 5G’s contribution to driving take-up of smart health devices and associated data capabilities could deliver £1.25bn of savings per year to the NHS by 2025. It offers new capabilities such as low latency to deliver use cases such as remote-assisted surgery and drone delivery of medication and medical assets more efficiently than traditional courier.
Vodafone added that adoption of 5G enabled technology in manufacturing, transport and agriculture could reduce the UK’s overall emissions by 4% a year and that through the adoption of 5G, the manufacturing industry could increase gross value added (GVA) across the UK by £3.6bn per year in 2025 and £6.3bn per year in 2030.
“We’re excited about what the future holds for our customers,” said Nick Gliddon, business director of Vodafone UK. “5G standalone is truly a transformation technology that can have an impact on industry and businesses, especially when blended with IoT and cloud.”
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