Vodafone switches on 5G trial network

Site in Salford now carrying 5G traffic

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Vodafone has flipped the switch on its first 5G trial network in Salford, Manchester, becoming the first company in the UK to carry full 5G over a commercial network.

The network uses Active Antenna (Massive MIMO) technology. This provides multiple-data channels' from a single antenna over Vodafone's 3.4GHz 5G spectrum.

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The mobile operator added that until now companies have tested the technology either within a single location or using parts of the 4G network to complete the 5G service.

The mobile telco has invited local companies and organisations to join its 5G trial through its  Future Ready' innovation centre, which is scheduled to open in spring 2019.

The centre will be equipped with 5G wireless routers, gigabit-capable optical-fibre links and Internet of Things (IoT) services, which can digitally connect "everything from office security systems, vehicles, and household appliances to livestock and pets".

The Innovation centre will also host winners of its Vodafone Techstarter. The awards go to companies using innovative technology with a social purpose. Techstarter offers a 300,000 fund through a partnership with the Vodafone Foundation and Social Tech Trust, the UK's leading supporter of socially-motivated tech ventures.

Vodafone UK chief executive Nick Jeffery said: "We are leading the rollout of 5G across the UK, starting with Greater Manchester.

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"We have worked closely with the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to help ensure the city is not only an economic powerhouse but also a digital powerhouse. That is why we are making a multi-million-pound investment to offer world-class communications to Greater Manchester's thriving media and tech community, consumers and our own 1,000 or so employees who work there."

Although many of the country's networks have experimented with 5G, this is the first time it is accessible to customers, although the first people able to use it will be commercial customers rather than the general public. 

And this is just the first in a long line of serious 5G tech tests by the network, the company explained. It plans to roll out 5G to another six cities in the next few months, with harder to reach places being able to take advantage of trials in 2019.

EE has also been busy testing its network, although its trials have been limited to Canary Wharf to test how 5G reliability could be affected in high-network areas. Vodafone's network covers a much larger area and is offering Salford's booming media and tech industries the opportunity to test out its super-speed network.

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