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Vodafone goes live with 5G in the UK – what does it mean for retail?

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Vodafone will switch on its 5G network for both consumers and business customers in seven cities across the UK on 3 July 2019. In a worldwide first, Vodafone will also offer 5G roaming in the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain over the summer.

The UK is leading the way in adopting 5G, with Vodafone the first operator to name an official switch-on date.

Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and London will be among the first cities in the world to receive 5G – the new super-fast, highly responsive mobile technology. Birkenhead, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Guildford, Newbury, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Reading, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Warrington and Wolverhampton will follow later this year.

Vodafone will price 5G the same as 4G for both consumers and business customers. A choice of 5G smartphones will be available to buy online or in Vodafone stores over the summer. The first smartphone goes on sale next week. Vodafone will also offer a 5G router for use in the home and office to give customers without a fixed line connection high-speed broadband access. It is also ideal for those customers replacing their home or business broadband; needing a second connection; or who require instant Internet access at an outdoor event.

Vodafone is also creating digital innovation and incubator centres across the UK. It will soon open a technology centre at MediaCity, Salford, Greater Manchester, and today is unveiling plans for a major new 5G facility at the Ricoh Arena – home of Wasps rugby and netball clubs.

Under the new sponsorship and technology deal with Wasps, Vodafone will equip the rugby stadium and netball centre with the latest 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) technology. This will this give fans the best-connected sporting seats in the country. The venues will be open to businesses and start-ups.

Vodafone was the first to demonstrate a 5G holographic call last year. We have also brought 5G to key commuter locations. Offering speeds over 5G up to ten times faster than 4G, we’ve shown commuters at busy airports and railway stations that they can download TV box sets or movies in a matter of seconds before they embark on their journey.

5G will also ensure faster data speeds for customers in congested areas, such as busy shopping centres, sporting events or music concerts. Vodafone is already the best network in London and now, with the extra capacity offered by 5G, consumers and businesses in the capital can expect even greater reliability in busy areas.

Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery says: “This is important. It means we can today announce the largest launch of 5G in the UK and be the first to announce 5G roaming. It means that UK businesses can lead the world in adopting 5G to boost productivity and attract investment. It means consumers can get the fastest mobile speeds ever, and it means that our public sector will be able to adopt new services to improve healthcare, social services and housing.”

What does it mean for retail?

5G promises device speeds around 10 times faster than 4G, meaning high quality 4K video calls and downloads will be delivered even quicker to smartphones and tablets. Data transfer of less than 20 milliseconds will be standard, which is great news for mobile users like gamers, who up until now have had to rely on home broadband when playing online.

5G will also deliver response times of less than five milliseconds into smart factories, connecting robots and mobile machines, connecting British business like never before.

For retailers this means is more of everything and everything at high speed. 5G will allow for the use of public networks – in-store and out in the street – to carry the whole gamut of augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) services, will allow for retailers to roll out all manner of in-store services and help consumers connect wherever they are.

Retailers themselves will also benefit, with 5G improving the connection between stores and warehousing, logistics, such as drone deliveries and driverless vans,  and suppliers, as well as being the underlying technology that will make the Internet of Things (IoT) for retailers – think connected shelves, better personalisation and goods with RFID cards in them – a reality.

Vodafone UK Chief Technology Officer Executive Scott Petty says: “Our multi-billion-pound network investment and leading position in setting global standards will ensure our customers have the very latest 5G releases and technology. 5G will also usher in a new era where everyone and everything is better connected, whether you are running a hotel in Portsmouth or broadcasting live at MediaCity in Salford.”

Dr Derek Long, Head of Telecoms and Mobile at Cambridge Consultants believes that “5G has the potential to transform numerous industries, but unlike the consumer market, which telecom operators treat as essentially homogeneous, each industry will have very different requirements and will speak its own language. Operators will need to reach out to their enterprise customers to understand their needs; build tailored, convenient services and respond to their business and technical concerns quickly and efficiently.”

He continues: “Retail, for example, is already experiencing a revolution, even before 5G arrives. As shoppers switch to purchasing online and become ever more discerning in terms of price, delivery and service, retailers must become more adept in streamlining their business. With super-connectedness delivered by 5G, the gathering of data and analytics in traditional bricks and mortar stores can enable those stores to provide highly personalized shopping experiences, including personal recommendations, tailored pricing, augmented reality and virtual reality experiences and more.”

According to Paul Murnaghan, BT’s Enterprise Division Director, which has installed a host of high speed free public wifi networks in the UK, analogous to what 5G can deliver: “A key marker of an adaptable high street is high quality, high-speed connectivity, and the impact of better connectivity to support local economic development cannot be underestimated. The fastest free public Wi-Fi service available in the UK will provide shoppers with a quality internet connection on their mobiles and subsequently increasing dwell time. Secure public Wi-Fi also enables traders to make higher value transactions more quickly and more safely. 

He adds: “Technology has enormous potential to provide a new lease of life for the UK’s high streets, which in turn will transform what our town centres are used for and increase Northern Ireland’s overall economic activity and growth. We are pleased that we can now offer these benefits to local people and Belfast will now join the likes of London, Glasgow and Cardiff in offering access to these innovative free services.”

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