Vodafone serves up a slice of 5G for coronation broadcast

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UK broadcaster ITN will get a slice of Vodafone’s 5G standalone (SA) network to go with its slice of coronation quiche this weekend.

The mobile operator on Wednesday announced that ITN’s coverage of Saturday’s coronation of King Charles III will be carried on a dedicated slice of its public 5G SA network. Voda claims this is the first time this technology has been used in the UK to enable a broadcast.

“It feels fitting that 70 years on from the 1953 coronation, itself a milestone in outside broadcasting, ITN will be delivering coverage to audiences around the world while trialling the future of cellular connectivity,” said Jon Roberts, director of television, production and innovation at ITN, in a statement. “We are proud of our role in broadcasting this historic event, and excited to be blazing a trail in partnership with Vodafone as we explore the capabilities of 5G SA technology together.”

This is a win for Vodafone, which has an opportunity here to differentiate on network prowess, something that has underpinned fierce rival EE’s strategy more or less since it launched.

Vodafone forged a reputation in the early days of mobile with its important work on voice and SMS services. Despite its ongoing efforts to innovate, the mantle of technology pioneer passed to EE in 2012 when it launched the UK’s first 4G network, and followed that up in 2019 with the UK’s first 5G network. EE continues to emphasise network quality and coverage as an important point of difference between itself and its competitors.

There is a slight shift underway though. Vodafone has been making a lot of noise about 5G standalone, laying claim to its fair share of firsts. These include the UK’s first test network and the first commercial pilot service. More recently, it opened what it claims to be the UK’s first 5G SA Media Innovation Lab. This facility enabled Voda and ITN – along with their respective technology partners Ericsson and Live U – to test out 5G SA together, paving the way for this weekend’s coronation broadcast on Vodafone’s live network.

Meanwhile, Vodafone has also replaced EE as technology partner for Glastonbury Festival for the next few years, giving it a chance to align its brand with a young, cool, tech-savvy crowd.

“Innovation is at the heart of Vodafone, from the first text message to the first mobile call, we have been central in the UK’s adoption of digital technology. Now we are continuing this tradition by being the first to switch on 5G SA for the public to trial and providing a slice of this network for the coronation,” said Nick Gliddon, UK business director, Vodafone, in a statement.

However, given the high-profile nature of the event, the stakes are high when it comes to credibility, not just Vodafone’s and ITN’s, but potentially 5G’s as well. Having been overhyped for years, the technology – in its non standalone form – has under-delivered on expectations, offering little more than an improvement in throughput compared to 4G.

As we all know, standalone is where 5G gets exciting, and so perhaps the last thing the industry needs is for something to go wrong in front of such a large audience.

The public won’t hold back if it does – just ask Three UK. The mobile operator attracted no small amount of ire and ridicule when thousands of its customers didn’t receive the government’s recent test of the emergency alert system. And that was just an alarm going off for 10 seconds; it wasn’t a full day’s coverage of the highly-symbolic crowning of the country’s new monarch. The pressure to perform is well and truly on.

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One comment

  1. Avatar James Smith 04/05/2023 @ 7:21 pm

    Give me a break. There is currently no market for this. Fruity phone supplier is not ready. Vodafone is a loss maker which is why it has to merge with equally broke Three.

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