Vodafone switches on 5G network in five major urban areas
Robotic surgery and movie downloads in seconds are now possible in Ireland thanks to the arrival of 5G technology, according to the country's biggest mobile network.
Vodafone is the first Irish operator to switch on 5G, which is capable of online data speeds many times those of current 4G and up to 100 times faster than 3G.
At the launch in Cork, hour-long episodes of TV series were downloaded in less than 10 seconds, while remote ultrasound scans were done on supposed car accident victims.
The 5G coverage will be available at first in parts of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.
Vodafone says that "additional locations" in city and other urban areas will be covered later this year.
The more general introduction of the technology will follow over the next two years.
Eir is expected to follow Vodafone with its own 5G launch by the end of next month.
Three has promised that it will launch by the end of 2019 but has still to decide between network equipment providers Ericsson and Huawei, making a launch before December look unlikely.
Vodafone Ireland chief executive Anne O'Leary has said that 5G will not be a substitute for fibre broadband in rural areas.
Irish telecoms law does not require mobile operators to geographically cover the country, instead placing minimum requirements by population.
In the past, this has meant that 3G and 4G mobile coverage have taken several years to reach non-urban areas of the country.
To connect to 5G, Vodafone customers need to have a new 5G compatible smartphone. Existing 4G smartphones will not be able to benefit from the extra speed on 5G.
At present, there are only two 5G-compatible phones on the Irish market - Huawei's Mate 20 X and Samsung's S10 5G, both costing more than €1,000.
None of the existing iPhones can take a 5G signal, and the upcoming iPhone 11 is not expected to either.
Vodafone says that getting access to its 5G network will not cost any more, although it is only available on medium to high-end billing plans starting at €35 per month.
The price is expected to come down in the future with more competition.