Vodafone UK’s network chief Andrea Dona warned the industry needed financial support from the government and regulators to achieve the full potential of standalone (SA) 5G, as the operator staked a claim to being the first in the nation to light its network.

Dona stated progress in SA 5G deployments was slow due, in part, to operators needing to upgrade equipment on each mast site, with the shift requiring a significant financial commitment.

The network executive explained backing “could take the form of providing low-interest loans; reforming regulation around net neutrality; encouraging public procurement of 5G services; or reducing barriers to rollout”.

Dona added the launch of SA 5G is a “very important step forward on the way to creating a digital platform for innovation across every sector of the UK”.

Vodafone cited benefits covering video streaming, online gaming, indoor coverage improvements and better network security.

The operator detailed plans to trial network steering, automatically directing traffic to 4G and 5G networks depending on the service.

Dona discussed the technology as Vodafone commenced a trial for customers with compatible Samsung and Oppo devices in seven major cities.

The trial is the latest move by Vodafone in its SA 5G plans: in early 2022, it teamed with Ericsson to demonstrate network slicing in a laboratory for a VR use case.