Saturday 21 September 2019

Vodafone switches on 5G mobile - but claims it isn't a replacement for rural broadband

Picture shows Anne O’Leary, CEO of Vodafone Ireland speaking to Max Gasparroni,  Interim Technology Director, Vodafone Ireland
Picture shows Anne O’Leary, CEO of Vodafone Ireland speaking to Max Gasparroni,  Interim Technology Director, Vodafone Ireland
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Vodafone has installed the first 5G mobile site in Dublin, claiming that it will pave the way for autonomous cars, faster mobile broadband, smart cities and other new technologies.

However, the company’s Irish boss says that it will be “complementary” for rural broadband rollout rather than a replacement for fibre.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Anne O’Leary also said that 5G would “not necessarily” require more masts to get the benefits of faster mobile broadband.

5G is capable of connecting mobile devices at the speed of fibre. However, there are currently no 5G phones or other devices available on the market.

Hans Hammer, global programme director at Ericsson, said that a mobile WiFi router it has developed will be commercially available early next year. The router will let ordinary devices, such as laptops and phones, connect at very high speeds over 5G mobile signals.

Other benefits touted using the technology include robotic surgery and real time virtual gaming on the move.

“This is extremely significant,” said Max Gasparroni, Vodafone Ireland’s interim CTO over a holographic call made using the 5G signal.

“5G is actually live in Ireland now, we’ve switched on. But it’s not commercial because there are no devices. Even still, it’s a major landmark on our journey to 5G.”

He said that 5G will allow “millions” of sensors to be deployed per square kilometre compared to 4G.

“5G is a major step change compared to 4G,” he said. “It has much higher data rates and speeds. It also has ultra low latency and high reliability rates for infrastructure. It will allow for things like asset tracking, smart cities and smart agriculture. It will unlock critical use cases that are not possible over 4G like things in the medical space.

The move comes as policy makers here debate whether or not to proceed with the National Broadband Plan rollout plan, which is based on fibre to the home.

The Government has received an audit report into the National Broadband Plan which is understood to say that that the tender was not materially affected by meetings held between former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and head of the bidding consortium, David McCourt.

As part of the new 5G initiative, Vodafone and Ericsson have also partnered with NovaUCD at University College Dublin, to create a new 5G accelerator programme. Through the nationwide programme, participants will get a chance to develop business plans around 5G enabled products and services.

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