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Vodafone gets the 5G ball rolling

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Vodafone has unveiled seven cities which will serve as test sites for 5G trials between October and December later this year.

Work on the seven cities, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester, has already begun, with the team now discussing which enterprise customers will be invited to the trial. Vodafone has highlighted augmented and virtual reality in offices, factories and hospitals will be one of the areas the team hopes to explore.

“We want to make 5G and new fibre broadband services available to consumers and business throughout the UK, delivering a Gigabit society for all,” said Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery. “We will also be bringing ultra-fast 4G to several hundred sites in hard to reach rural areas this year, building on our position as the network that offers the best voice coverage in the UK.”

With EE has been the aggressor when it comes to 5G trials over the last couple of weeks, it would be easy to forget about Vodafone, the telco which was declared the winner by many pundits following the 5G auction in April. Vodafone won 50 MHz during the auction for a healthy £378 million in the 3.4 GHz band (3410 MHz to 3460 MHz), and has already run a live test across the spectrum, seemingly just to test it out and shallowly grab a few column inches.

What is worth noting is this is not the aggressive assault on the 5G market which US telcos seem to be taking, targeting a commercial launch by the end of 2018. These are nothing more than trials, with commercial services set to launch in 2020, further evidence Europeans will have to stare out at the rest of the world, jealous of the 5G euphoria, while our telcos get their act together.

Of course, moaning about the slow progress in the European market is nothing new, but the prospects of Vodafone moving forward are. Aside from making steady progress in the 5G world, Vodafone UK’s IP-based converged core network Red Stream is worth looking into, the team is also making steady progress in the broadband world with its partnership with CityFibre.

Having announced themselves as an alternative provider of full-fibre broadband services to the Openreach and Virgin Media networks, work has begun to lay the foundations of the network in Milton Keynes, Peterborough, Aberdeen, Coventry, Edinburgh, Huddersfield and Stirling. All of these cities are areas which have previously been underserved by the industry, with Vodafone and CityFibre stepping up to take advantage of the uneven supply/demand balance.

Vodafone has not had the best reputation in years gone, it seems unthinkable the telco used to be the leader in the UK mobile market, but after a few years of network and customer service investment, the ship does seem to be veering back on course. The bad days are by no means behind the telco, comments on Twitter are more than enough evidence to prove this is a work in progress, though the team is slowly building a solid foundation for the much lauded convergence business model.

There are no plans to get into the content game just yet, but we don’t mind that. Vodafone’s issue in recent years has been a network which is not up to scratch, though the current strategy does seem to be focused on the basics; nail connectivity and the customer experience, and the money will follow.

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