‘5G will take innovation to the next level, and the possibilities are endless’

Information spoke to Anne Sheehan, enterprise director at Vodafone UK, on the current state of play of 5G, Vodafone’s plans around this and the impact it will have going forward.

What is 5G? How does it differ from 4G?

Short for fifth generation mobile networks (or fifth generation wireless systems), 5G is the fifth and latest iteration of the global mobile networking standard.

Like generations before it, 5G promises even faster speeds. Significantly, it will also reduce latency, which will be really critical for applications like self-driving cars, remote surgery, gaming and VR/AR that require an instantaneous response. It is also set to increase bandwidth, catering for a myriad of devices and emerging technologies at once, even where demand is high.

>See also: What will 5G mean for businesses?

Another major upside to the 5G network is its user-centric nature. Today’s traffic management is focused on the most optimal and efficient management of limited network resources. However, 5G will be able to adapt to user demand – whether that user is human, or millions of connected ‘things’ like drones, fitness trackers, or an ambulance accessing a full view of a patient’s condition to save time once they’ve reached the hospital.

What still needs to be done before 5G can be widely adopted?

It is also important to remember existing masts need to be upgraded, as do handsets, devices and that 5G needs fibre. That’s because fibre connections are essential in providing the high capacity links between 5G mobile sites so that information can flow back and forth from connected devices, the Internet, computer clouds and companies’ intranets in the blink of an eye.

What role will 5G play in people’s lives?

The possibilities are endless. From paramedics who are in constant, real-time, video link conference with the emergency room a patient is heading too, to providing a guided meditation session on a calming tropical beach for a person suffering from chronic pain from the comfort of their sitting room, 5G has the potential to make these seemingly far-fetched scenarios a reality.

>See also: The race towards 5G is afoot – but are businesses ready?

But it is not just big machines that are set to benefit from 5G. Imagine a world where billions of connected devices, underpinned by our most reliable network and hardware, working quicker and for longer.

Today’s digital innovation is also enabling the smart home where everything is connected. It won’t be long before a drone drops off the shopping that your fridge and cupboards have ordered or where a boiler has warned you that it is about to fail and has searched the internet for ratings and recommended you a plumber to call.

What impact is 5G likely to have on the mobile experience?

Similar to how you need a 4G-capable device to connect to 4G networks, users will need the right handsets or devices to connect to 5G. Named the Snapdragon X50, Qualcomm announced the first 5G modem for smartphones in 2016.

Personally, I’m looking forward to being able to make a holographic call to my friends and family!

What are Vodafone’s plans for 5G?

Since the beginning of 2014, we’ve invested around £2 billion in our network and services across the country, and we’re proud to be investing an additional £2 billion over the next few.

But it doesn’t stop there. With its potential to take innovation to the next level, 5G will be at the heart of Vodafone’s future strategy. It will, along with Gigafast fibre-optic cables, change how people interact with companies and continue to transform the way we deliver customer service.

>See also: Digital connectivity drive vital for UK’s economic prospects

Whilst we already deploy technology such as intelligent chat bots to provide customers with 24/7 service, 5G will transform our customer service, making it even quicker and easier for customers to get the help they need. Take drones as a prime example of this – drones could be deployed to inspect faults with critical infrastructure such as power lines in order to speed up fault diagnostics.

Our network is already being enhanced to keep ahead of demand and bring our customers some of the benefits much sooner.

In the first UK-based test to show 5G working independently from existing 4G technologies, we recently partnered with Ericsson to successfully test a prototype device at King’s College, London. And last year, we tested new 5G systems to help cars communicate with one another.

For example, here we deployed a technology known as Active Antennae or Massive MIMO (multiple-input, multiple-output) across our network. As a key building block for 5G, this technology uses multiple antennae to send and receive data more efficiently, as well as to boost capacity where lots of people connect to the network at the same time.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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