The good news: Vodafone switches on first full-fat, real-life 5G network in the UK. The bad news: it only got sent to Coventry

Tech stands on own two feet rather than 4G infrastructure

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Vodafone has switched on its first 5G SA (standalone) network in the UK.

The inaugural deployment is located at Coventry University, and - all being well - is expected to deliver increased capacity as well as the low-latency connections required for time-sensitive IoT applications.

Coventry University said it will use the network to trial virtual-reality learning technologies for student nurses, as well as to help it specialise in 5G-related research.

Vodafone has also pushed out Ericsson's 5G Radio Dot System at the Midlands university, providing indoor 5G access in key buildings.

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Con Latham CBE, Coventry University vice chancellor, issued a canned statement about the instllation:

"Being the first university in the UK to have this next phase of 5G technology is the first step on our journey to creating a 5G campus, and we will soon be able to reveal how we will use this technology to maximise the potential of virtual-reality teaching for our Health and Life Sciences students."​

Voda's the first UK network to push out standalone 5G,; before this the UK's 5G infrastructure was entirely built upon the existing 4G network – a standard known as 5G NSA (non-standalone). Moving to the standalone tech presents advantages long touted as the killer apps for 5G, including the ability to cheaply and quickly deploy 5G networks, achieve lower latencies and the possibility of fully exploiting millimetre wave spectrum.

5G SA expands upon the speeds offered by NSA and introduces features like network slicing – where a provider dedicates a portion of their network to a specific customer. The lower latencies that can be achieved by standalone 5G, specifically, are hugely helpful for edge computing applications in addition to IoT - though none of this game-changing tech is going to come without a cost.

Telecoms analyst Paolo Pescatore commented: "5G remains in its infancy and the technology has yet to achieve its full potential. The vast majority of telcos have focused on a non-standalone version of 5G initially. This has been important in getting 5G off the ground. While these advancements are better than 4G, this non-standalone form of 5G only scratches the surface in terms of its true capabilities.

"Though it is early days, [this] represents a significant step along with other efforts around DSS and mmWave." ®


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