Vodafone launches Standalone 5G trials in UK

(Image credit: Christoph Scholz/Flickr)

Vodafone has launched Standalone 5G (SA 5G) pilots in London, Manchester, and Cardiff, providing partners the opportunity to test their innovations on a next-generation network for the first time.

Nearly all commercial 5G deployments to date have relied on Non-standalone 5G (NSA 5G), which uses new radio technologies but still relies on the underlying 4G core.

SA 5G uses a new virtual, cloud-based core that allows data to be processed closer to the point of collection and enables features like network slicing. This allows for guaranteed speeds, enhanced reliability and ultra-low latency.

Vodafone SA 5G

These characteristics will be essential for 5G applications like Virtual Reality, robotics, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). There will also be an inevitable improvement to mobile broadband services.

Vodafone has deployed SA 5G in other locations, including at the University of Coventry and in the other countries, but never on this scale in the UK.

These latest trials will focus on key SA 5G use cases and allow partners to test compatible devices in a live network environment. The infrastructure is powered by Ericsson’s cloud-native dual mode 5G core technology, the rollout of which was announced last week.

The rollout of SA 5G, coupled with other investments in Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC) and IoT, are integral to Vodafone’s ambition to be more than just a supplier of connectivity and become a genuine IT company. 

The lessons learned form the pilots will be used to inform Vodafone’s overall SA 5G strategy going forward.

“Delivering 5G Standalone for the UK is an important step forward for our customers and our partners,” declared Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone UK.

“The new features this delivers, such as new levels of reliability, latency and flexibility, are a gamechanger for customers and developers looking to create new applications.  This leadership position greatly complements our investments in MEC capabilities, IoT, Mobile Private Networks (MPN) and OpenRAN. When we bring all these technologies together, we open up entirely new possibilities for customers, and move beyond being a core connectivity provider to being a true digital champion.”

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.