Vodafone switches on 'full 5G' trial in Manchester

Vodafone has switched on a trial of ‘full 5G’ in Salford, Greater Manchester and has invited digital startups and media companies in the region to try out the technology ahead of a full launch in 2019.

Manchester is one of seven cities earmarked for Vodafone 5G trials before the end of the year and the MediaCity UK is host to the company’s first innovation hub. In total, 60 sites across all cities will go live.

The 5G trial network provides coverage to MediaCity UK and the surrounding area.

Vodafone 5G

Vodafone claims this trial is a ‘UK first’ as other trials, such as EE’s at Canary Wharf, still use elements of 4G infrastructure – such as the core network - to reach users. This trial in Salford connects to Vodafone’s converged core network, which combines its mobile and fixed infrastructures.

Although early 5G services will use new radio technologies that enable faster speeds of up to 1Gbps, the truly revolutionary aspects such as low latency will have to wait until operators rearchitect their networks using virtualisation and edge computing.

“We are leading the roll out of 5G across the UK, starting with Greater Manchester,” said Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery. “A further six cities – Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool and London – will shortly receive full 5G too. Next year, we will bring 5G to the Scottish Highlands, Cornwall and the Lake District, among other locations.”

The Manchester Innovation Centre houses Vodafone’s latest technology, including wireless gigabit routers, fibre connectivity and IoT services. This will eventually include 5G handsets when they are launched next year.

Last month, the UK’s fist holographic call over 5G was held between a young football fan at Vodafone’s Newbury headquarters and England and Manchester City women’s captain Steph Houghton at the innovation hub.

All four major UK operators are working on 5G rollouts, with the first commercial services set to go live next year.

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.