Vodafone will begin testing next-generation 5G mobile networks in seven of the UK’s 10 largest cities later in 2018, as part of a plan to start limited deployments in dense urban areas in some of its markets next year.
The mobile communications company has signalled it is in no rush to introduce 5G, seeing the potential tenfold increase in mobile broadband data speeds it offers as a way to wring greater results out of network choke points initially.
Vodafone is the third largest mobile operator in the UK and says it is laying the groundwork for 5G services as a supplement to existing 4G networks at 40 locations around Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester.
It plans to target highly trafficked urban areas including sports venues, offices, factories and hospitals, as well as some popular holiday locations, a Vodafone UK spokesman said.
Earlier this month, rival mobile operator EE, a unit of BT Group, said it would switch on the UK’s first 5G trial network in east London in October. Vodafone said its latest trials will kick off at the end of this year.
Vodafone has said its broad programme of 4G network upgrades undertaken across Europe in recent years, combined with its strong position in licensed radio airwaves, ensures that it has capacity to meet traffic demand for years to come.
The company is waiting until 5G-ready phones and other devices start to become available in the 2020 timeframe before it considers fuller 5G deployments.
Vodafone has forecast 5G is unlikely to be adopted by 50% of phone users before the middle of the next decade.