Vodafone hits major UK 5G milestone

Vodafone has become the first mobile operator to test the 3.4GHz spectrum won by UK mobile operators in Ofcom’s spectrum auction last week.

The spectrum will power the first tranche of 5G services which are expected to go live in the UK in 2020. It will be used in conjunction with other bands, including 700MHz and millmetre wave (mmWave) frequencies, to offer a balance of range and capacity.

Vodafone’s test linked its Manchester contact centre with its headquarters in Newbury, Berkshire and used Massive MIMO, which involves the transmission of several data signals over the same channel using multiple antennas.


The system has the potential to transmit data more efficiently, boosting capacity in crowded areas and enabling the data intensive applications that 5G can power.

“5G will improve the quality of our lives and transform how we work,” declared Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery. “This next generation technology will enable medical services that could save lives, from remote surgery to remote care for the elderly. It will enhance industrial applications, from automated systems to robotics, helping manufacturers across the UK boost their productivity.

“And it will enable families to share their experiences with loved ones wherever they are, thanks to innovations like augmented reality.  “

Vodafone won 50MHz of 3.4GHz bandwidth in the auction – more than any other operator – at a cost of £378 million. EE and O2 both secured 40MHz, while Three successfully bid for 3.4GHz, although its UK Broadband subsidiary already has assets in the band.

“Today’s test is just the beginning,” added Jeffery. “We are now preparing our network for 5G while continuing to increase the capacity and extend the reach of our existing 4G network.”

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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.