Vodafone has switched on its UK 5G network at an event in London, challenging its rivals with a range of speed-based unlimited mobile data deals.
The first areas to access the new network will include Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and London, as well as in the Isles of Scilly, with more areas being added throughout the year.
The network operator plans to launch its 5G offering in an additional 12 UK towns and cities by the end of the year and will also introduce 5G roaming in four countries over the summer.
According to Andrea Dona, head of networks at Vodafone, while the company is launching its 5G network after rival EE launched its 5G service, it is launching with full functionality and mobility.
Its 5G services will be available on the Samsung S10 5G and the Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 5G handsets with immediate effect.
Vodafone has thrown down the gauntlet to rival networks by announcing a set of speed-based unlimited mobile data packages for both 4G and 5G, with no premium for 5G.
These include ‘Unlimited Lite’ (£23/m with speeds up to 2Mbps); ‘Unlimited’ (£26/m with speeds up to 10Mbps), and a more 5G-focused ‘Unlimited Max’ (£30/m with maximum speeds allowed by network).
A similar raft of unlimited packages will also be offered to enterprise customers and the network operator will also offer a ‘Vodafone Together’ package, combining broadband and mobile services for £50/m.
“We don’t charge premium for 5G, no catches,” said Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK CEO, speaking at the launch of the 5G network.
“This is a vital point of difference versus our competitions. To charge a premium makes a customer have to judge how often they’re going to be in a 5G area, a barrier that is not needed. One of the benefits we know of 5G is that it helps provide a more reliable service in more congested areas, so why charge a customer a premium for a service they should already expect?
5G is already more efficient for data usage on the network; it’s good for us, it’s good for customers. We want as many people as possible to experience 5G [with] no premium.”
Vodafone also announced the next-generation 5G-enabled ‘Gigacube’, which transforms mobile networks into Wi-Fi for devices at home.
Both Vodafone UK and EE pulled 5G handsets made by China’s Huawei from their launch line-ups because of uncertainty about support by Google’s Android after a U.S. move to block the Chinese firm’s access to its technology. The status of the ban remains unclear.
“Vodafone always complied with government guidance on its products and services.”
“But if it’s possible for us to sell a wider range of 5G devices, particularly the Huawei one, we will,”
Vodafone uses a range of telecom equipment suppliers including Huawei and Ericsson in its network, but it does not use the Chinese company in its core.
“Huawei is one third of our base stations, and the other two-thirds are other vendors,” chief technology officer Scott Petty said.
“We like to use Huawei in base stations, they make great products and they work really, really well.”