Vodafone UK’s announcement this month that it is conducting 5G trials in seven cities, comes after many of the concepts involved were tested as part of the TM Forum Catalyst Program.
In addition to testing 5G services with consumers, concepts included working with enterprise customers to evaluate applications such as augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) in offices, factories and hospitals.
Vodafone championed and led the Blade Runner Catalyst, which was demonstrated recently at Digital Transformation World and won an award for the most innovative project. The project is one of several proofs of concept Vodafone has been doing focusing on AR.
The Catalyst team showed a complex and interesting use case using AR to help a local engineer in a Dubai mine repair earth-moving equipment (such as from Caterpillar or JCB) by receiving instructions from an expert located at an enterprise customer’s facility in Germany. The project drew on lessons learned in a previous Catalyst called Do Drones Dream of Electric Sheep? That proof of concept used 5G network slicing for internet of things applications, including offering drones as a service for precision farming.
Getting to Gigabit UK
Vodafone’s new 5G trial areas, which will include 40 sites in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester, are part of the company’s major investment to build ‘Gigabit UK’, a network capable of providing ultra-fast connection speeds of 1Gbps whether subscribers are on the move, at home or at work. The company is making the commitment to conduct the 5G trials after winning the largest block of 5G spectrum in the recent auction and conducting the first UK test of the spectrum across a live network.
The Gigabit UK project also involves deploying gigabit-capable fiber to homes and offices. Seven cities, – Aberdeen, Coventry, Edinburgh, Huddersfield, Milton Keynes, Peterborough and Stirling – will be able to use Vodafone Gigafast Broadband starting later this year.
Both 5G and Vodafone Gigafast Broadband services will be connected by Vodafone’s optical core network RedStream, which currently links 1,300 broadband exchanges and nearly 1,600 other locations such as retail parks, new builds and business premises. Vodafone recently tested new ‘photonic’ technology capable of carrying information over the core network at speeds up to 400Gbps.