Vodafone has switched on its 5G network today in seven cities, totaling 27 across Europe, becoming the second British mobile carrier to do so this summer.
The carrier also announced its Vodafone Business Unlimited plans which offer unlimited data use for business customers at no extra cost than its 4G equivalent.
Vodafone Business Unlimited 5G plans will begin at just 19.16 per month (exc VAT) and will initially be available to Soho businesses and SMBs with a view to expand its portfolio over the coming months to accommodate businesses of all sizes.
There will be three plans on launch:
- Business Unlimited Lite: The cheapest of the plans coming in at 19.16 per month (exc VAT), a package that Vodafone describes as "perfect for a small business wanting reliable email and internet browsing as well as social media to engage with customers"
- Business Unlimited: The mid-range plan which costs 21.66 per month (exc VAT) is better suited for professional services such as estate agents who rely on Google Maps to get around or upload/download larger files
- Business Unlimited Max: 25.00 per month (exc VAT) buys your business the best speeds and unlimited 5G data, plus Vodafone's best-in-class roaming offer
All three business plans will have unlimited data; Lite will be limited to 2 Mbps, Unlimited will be limited to 10 Mbps and Max will offer the fastest speeds available in the customer's area.
In addition to the plans, Vodafone announced its business Add Ons portfolio which will include a virtual landline proposition One Net Anywhere, four-hour device replacement with Rapid Insurance, Paypal Here, Device Support, Prime Contact, and Business Support.
Vodafone will also launch a digital marketplace later in the year. It will enable small businesses to purchase productivity and security apps directly and pay for them via their monthly mobile bill.
"Our Soho and SME customers tell us they see their data allowance as a data limit. Today, we are removing this constraint," said Anne Sheehan, business director of Vodafone UK. "Vodafone Business Unlimited and Business Add-Ons will provide everything businesses need to thrive, including connectivity, data, apps, services and support. It is part of our commitment to be the go-to Digital Partner for UK businesses."
Vodafone said 5G will help support the adoption and enhance the capabilities of technologies such as AI, IoT, robotics, connected cities, and autonomous cars.
The seven major cities to receive Vodafone's 5G network first are Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, and London. Vodafone said 12 other towns across the country will also have access to the network via network extension including Newbury, home of the carrier's HQ. Vodafone's first 5G rural mast also went live today in the Isles of Scilly.
Today, Vodafone's 5G operates on mid-band spectrum which offers good speeds and latency, but isn't efficient in terms of coverage, hence why its 5G network is only launching in areas with high-density populations.
Next year, Vodafone will be launching its low-band spectrum which will help solve the issue of poor coverage while also delivering high speeds and low latency.
To cap off the announcement, Vodafone completed a world's first haptic 5G demo with help from London Wasps rugby team.
Harnessing the low latency 5G network and haptic sensor fitted to special clothing, not only were players able to deliver training sessions despite being over a hundred miles away, but Will Rowlands was able to make a tackle from Wasps' Coventry stadium and the full force could felt by teammate Juan de Jongh on stage in London who was wearing a specially developed haptic Teslasuit which lets the user feel movement, temperature, pressure and touch.
"5G is a game-changer for the economy and UK businesses," said Sheehan. "We are committed to helping our customers take advantage of this technology by making it widely available in the UK and through roaming. We want to help UK businesses become global leaders and 5G will play an important role in achieving that aim."
With the announcement today, Vodafone becomes the network with the most 5G coverage in the UK, launching with one more city than EE did just over a month ago. As well as the additional cities, Vodafone's 5G customers will also be able to enjoy 5G roaming this summer in Germany, Italy and Spain.
"Let battle commence, Vodafone is looking to go toe-to-toe with EE," said Paolo Pescatore, telco analyst. "The scale of its ambitions should not be underestimated. 5G represents a significant opportunity to turnaround its fortunes in the UK."
"All eyes are now on Three UK's launch next month which promises to further disrupt the market," he added. "All mobile network operators are set to offer 5G within months as O2 is due to launch by the end of the year. This is in stark contrast to 4G and great for UK plc."
Prior to Vodafone's main launch today, the carrier has been teasing the 5G all year with pop-up sites across major travel locations, demonstrating the speed and power that 5G will provide.
Vodafone switched on 5G at Manchester Airport in February using its Gigacube device so non-5G-enabled devices could test out the speeds, albeit less speedy than true 5G. Regardless, users still reported speeds four times faster than 4G and it then paved the way for a similar demo at Birmingham's New Street Station later in the year.
So far the only other 5G network in the UK is EE's which launched in May, serving six cities: all UK capital cities along with Manchester and Birmingham too.
Some lucky early testers of EE's 5G network were able to hit speeds of up to 1Gbs in central London, although London's coverage is spotty and 5G connections are only available in certain, high-density locations.
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Connor Jones has been at the forefront of global cyber security news coverage for the past few years, breaking developments on major stories such as LockBit’s ransomware attack on Royal Mail International, and many others. He has also made sporadic appearances on the ITPro Podcast discussing topics from home desk setups all the way to hacking systems using prosthetic limbs. He has a master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from the University of Sheffield, and has previously written for the likes of Red Bull Esports and UNILAD tech during his career that started in 2015.