Vodafone 'world-first' connects smartphones to 5G network

(Image credit: Vodafone)

Vodafone has successfully connected three commercial smartphones to its 5G network in Spain, claiming a world-first in the process, ahead of a full launch in several major cities across Europe later in 2019.

The trials were held in the capital Madrid and in Barcelona, home of Mobile World Congress (MWC), using three 5G smartphones that will be unveiled at the show next week.

The network was fully compliant with the 3GPP Release-15 5G standard approved last December and achieved peak speeds of 1.5Gbps. Vodafone has built a 5G network across Barcelona and will drive a car around the city during MWC to confirm these speeds.

Vodafone 5G

“Vodafone’s networks are increasingly ready for 5G, which will enable us to deliver significant benefits over time for consumers, businesses and society,” said Johan Wilberg, Vodafone Group CTO. “Our focus now is on optimising the customer experience before we launch 5G in some European cities later this year.”

Vodafone has spent the past few years making its 4G network ‘5G-Ready’ by transforming its radio and core infrastructures and ensuring sites have enough backhaul. It has won some 5G spectrum in markets like the UK, while it is in the process of bidding for airwaves in others.

In Spain, it has 5G sites in six cities, while it has launched 5G trials in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester. In Italy and Spain, Vodafone is working with automotive, industrial and public sector organisations to build out the business applications for 5G.

Earlier this week, it opened a public trial at Manchester Airport.

No firm launch date has been given apart from the ‘second half’ of 2019. The first commercial 5G handsets are expected from a number of manufacturers, including LG, OnePlus, Oppo and Xiaomi.

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.