Vodafone 5G takes off at London Gatwick Airport

(Image credit: Vodafone UK)

Vodafone has switched on 5G at London Gatwick Airport, providing the operator with an opportunity to showcase the benefits of its next-generation network to travellers and to businesses.

Passengers in departure lounges will be able to quickly download entertainment for their flight, while business travellers landing will be able to check emails as soon as they land, without fear that network congestion will get in their way.

The South Terminal is already live, with the North Terminal set to follow by early 2020.

Vodafone 5G

“Passengers using the network will benefit from superfast speeds when surfing the web and downloading files, or even box sets to provide video entertainment during one of the many long haul flights that depart from the airport,” declared John Barton, Gatwick Airport CIO.

Vodafone believes airports are a perfect example of how the greater capacity and reliability of 5G can help businesses. With 24,000 staff on-site and 46 million passengers travelling through each year, Gatwick is a highly dense site with plenty of devices competing for coverage.

“5G also has the potential to unlock a wide range of new capabilities and to reliably connect everything around us to a network many times faster than those it replaces,” added Barton. “Many of the 250 companies based on the Gatwick campus can also benefit from this superfast 5G service, including those that rely heavily on mobile applications for their day to day business.”

The network also has the potential to support Gatwick’s ‘smart airport’ initiatives. Over the past few years, it has experimented with trials of beacons for indoor navigation, a new digital radio system and open data initiatives as it seeks to compete with rivals like Heathrow.

Going forward, the  airport is set to trial robotic parking and the further automation of a number of check-in and boarding procedures.

5G has the potential to connect even more systems and support mission-critical applications Ultra-low latency, for example, will enable applications that require instant communication.

“The installation of hundreds of kilometres of fibre at the airport will enable us to offer great coverage to the millions of people who use Gatwick Airport each year, as well as to connect its systems and vehicles on site,” added Scott Petty, Vodafone UK CTO. “For example, by connecting mobility carts, airport staff will know where they are at all times, meaning they are better able to help passengers who need support.” 

Vodafone switched on its 5G network in July with the intention of reaching locations in 19 towns and cities before the end of the year. It has also launched 5G in Germany, Italy and Spain, allowing customers to roam on 5G where available.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.