Vodafone claimed to have become the world’s first operator to connect 5G smartphones to its live 5G network on Wednesday, as it prepared to launch 5G in a number of European cities during the second half of 2019.
The FTSE 100 telecoms giant said it had successfully completed trials over a four-week period, with three 5G smartphones that will be launched in 2019.
It said it was able to make a “seamless” 4K video call on its network during the trial, utilising 5G download speeds that would be up to 10 times faster than 4G was today.
Both the smartphones and Vodafone’s 5G network were “fully compliant” with the latest version of the industry standard for ‘Non-Standalone 5G’ – 3GPP’s ‘Release 15’ – which was approved in December.
Vodafone said it had already rolled out a 5G network in the city centre of Barcelona.
During the upcoming Mobile World Congress event, a car would drive around the city’s streets measuring and reporting the 1.5Gbps speeds that the network was already delivering.
Vodafone confirmed it was ready to launch 5G in a number of European cities during the second half of 2019.
It explained that it had invested in single ‘Radio Access Network’ technology across 98% of its European 4G footprint, which would make it “much simpler” to add 5G on top of its existing 4G network.
Additionally, it had been participating in 5G spectrum auctions in its European operating markets.
More than two-thirds of Vodafone’s single Radio Access Network sites within major European cities already had sufficient backhaul to support 5G network speeds, the company claimed.
It said it had invested €90m in Milan to build the first 5G network in Italy, covering over 80% of the city, while in the UK it was trialling 5G in seven cities and had successfully completed the country’s first “holographic call” in September.
Vodafone Germany won the international Paul Pietsch Award in 2019 for its work in making the 5G standard fit for connected and autonomous driving in future utilising its ‘5G Mobility Lab’ and auto test track near Dusseldorf, while Vodafone Spain had 5G cell sites across six cities.
“Vodafone’s networks are increasingly ready for 5G, which will enable us to deliver significant benefits over time for consumers, businesses and society,” said Vodafone chief technology officer Johan Wibergh.
“Our focus now is on optimising the customer experience before we launch 5G in some European cities later this year.”