Vodafone is first UK mobile brand to announce 5G launch

Just seven cities will be involved in initial roll-out this summer.

5G: allows new opportunities for brands in gaming, video and data collection
5G: allows new opportunities for brands in gaming, video and data collection

Vodafone will launch super-fast 5G mobile internet in July, the company announced this morning. 

It is the first mobile operator to confirm a 5G launch date. Vodafone said both personal and business users would be able to sign up for the service.

However, just seven cities will be involved in the initial roll-out in July: Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester. 

Users will also need a 5G-enabled smartphone, which currently includes the latest Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and the Huawei Mate X. The latest Apple iPhones are not 5G-compatible and the upcoming iPhone XI is not expected to be able to carry 5G signals either. 

Not only do 5G signals allow internet speeds up to 10 times faster than standard 4G, they offer very low latency, enabling near-instant connections for online video gaming and video calls.

The UK's mobile network brands have been pushing 5G in their marketing activity this year to prime consumers for its eventual launch. In February Three launched a mixed-reality catwalk for London Fashion Week, while EE created a 5G-powered AI stylist at the Baftas. 

However, it is likely to be several years before 5G becomes as prevalent as 4G is today, given the technical and regulatory challenges of building the network beyond busy metropolitan areas. 

Vodafone has not announced pricing, but said it would be the same as 4G for both consumers and business customers, while the company will also offer a 5G route for homes and offices.

Nick Jeffery, Vodafone’s UK chief executive, said the company has upgraded its masts to be able to have 5G without disruption.

Controversially, Vodafone will rely on equipment from Huawei to deliver the 5G service. The US government has pushed for the Chinese telecoms company to be banned, alleging that its networks could be used by China for spying. 

News that the government had approved Huawei to supply 5G was leaked to The Telegraph. This led to prime minister Theresa May sacking defence secretary Gavin Williamson over the leak – a claim that Williamson has strenuously denied.