Parts of Cornwall and Cumbria will be among the first locations to get access to Vodafone’s 5G mobile network when it launches in 2019

Remote rural areas in Cornwall and Cumbria will be among the first locations in the UK to get access to Vodafone’s 5G mobile network when the operator starts to roll out a 5G-ready network in the middle of 2019.

Up to now, the mobile industry has largely focused on targeting 5G at urban areas where higher user volumes will be able to benefit immediately from the capacity and speed boosts promised by 5G, enabling quick return on investment (ROI) for operators.

However, speaking at Vodafone’s Future Ready event at its Newbury headquarters, CTO Scott Petty said that besides major urban areas, the mobile network operator (MNO) would also roll out 5G early on in rural areas where it sees data growth and potential for digital innovation.

“We feel there are opportunities to validate some opportunities around 5G enabling fixed wireless access (FWA) for households, and 5G for agriculture,” Petty told Computer Weekly. “We can see traffic growth and demand in those areas.”

Vodafone UK chief executive Nick Jeffery added: “We believe there is a great deal of economic value and digital potential to fulfil outside of urban areas, and we’re now putting our money where our mouth is and bringing those areas up to speed with the latest technology.”

Vodafone has already announced the first seven cities where it will deploy 5G trial networks later in 2018 – Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester – but so far it is the only MNO to commit to offering early-stage 5G services in rural areas. The firm said today it was targeting 1,000 active 5G cell sites by the end of 2019.

Petty said he expected to see the first 5G-ready smartphones announced at Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona, but pointed out there were still a number of design issues to overcome, so brand name devices would probably appear towards the end of 2019.


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