Vodafone First To Test UK 5G Spectrum

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

After securing largest block of 5G spectrum last week, Vodafone tests it between Manchester and Newbury

Vodafone has not taken long to flash its 5G credentials, after it announced that it is the first to test its new 5G spectrum across a live network.

The test was carried out on an existing live network between a site in Manchester and Vodafone’s headquarters in Newbury, Berkshire.

It comes after Vodafone last week secured 50 MHz of 3.4 GHz spectrum at a cost of £378,240, the largest slice of 5G spectrum in Ofcom’s auction.

5G test

In total, the big four mobile operators paid approximately £1.4bn to secure both 5G and 4G spectrum.

And Vodafone lost little time in testing its newly acquired 5G spectrum. It said it was the first time that the 3.4 Gigahertz (GHz) radio frequency allocated for 5G has been used in the UK.

To carry out the 5G spectrum test, Vodafone said that it used a site at its Manchester contact centre, which houses around 1,000 customer service employees, and its offices in Newbury.

The test relied on a technology known as Active Antennae or Massive MIMO combined with 3.4 GHz spectrum running over the core 4G network. The system has multiple antennae to send and receive data more efficiently, boosting capacity where lots of people are connecting to the network at the same time.

“5G will improve the quality of our lives and transform how we work,” said Vodafone UK Chief Executive Nick Jeffery. “This next generation technology will enable medical services that could save lives, from remote surgery to remote care for the elderly.

“It will enhance industrial applications, from automated systems to robotics, helping manufacturers across the UK boost their productivity,” said Jeffery. “And it will enable families to share their experiences with loved ones wherever they are, thanks to innovations like augmented reality.”

“Today’s test is just the beginning,” he added. “We are now preparing our network for 5G while continuing to increase the capacity and extend the reach of our existing 4G network.”

UK challenges

Vodafone has been finding things tough at times in the UK market. It is seeking to grow its UK customer base via its broadband network for example.

But in February Vodafone reported a 4.8 percent fall in UK revenues over the past three months despite strong gains in broadband. The operator remains adamant that its mobile business is growing.

And its multi-billion pound ‘Project Spring’ network upgrade programme, coupled with huge investments in fixed line broadband and a focus on IoT, seem to have helped turn things round for the Newbury-based operator.

Yet in January both TalkTalk and Vodafone were at the centre of unwelcome headlines after it emerged that they were the UK’s most complained about broadband and mobile operators.

Ofcom’s research found that in the mobile sector, Vodafone received double the industry average with 10 per 100,000, ahead of BT on 9 and TalkTalk and Virgin Media which both received 8. Tesco Mobile received just 1.

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