The 5G era could mean the industry will never need another generation, Vodafone UK’s head of mobile networks argued, but only if operators remain faithful to how the technology has been conceived and avoid short-cuts when introducing it.
Speaking at a briefing on the future of networks held Vodafone’s Newbury HQ, Andrea Dona (pictured) pointed to studies which suggest 5G could be the ultimate mobile technology, if “we get it right”.
He explained the industry had been “monolithic” with 2G, 3G and 4G, but 5G was more open and, from a standards perspective, designed “ to accept all the existing different technologies”, including small cells and Wi-Fi, making it more future-proof.
“We are at the forefront of technology, the cutting edge of technology and we don’t quite know, but if you look at the theory, you could argue that actually it could be the last G.”
“It does, however, depend on how we adhere to the logic of how it has been engineered.”
Dona proceeded to hail the UK’s approach to be a first mover in Europe, as an example of how 5G could be a long-term solution.
“To go first on 5G in Europe and really be at the forefront, we can learn first and be the ones shaping it,” he said.
Vodafone UK is set to launch 5G on 3 July, following three years of development and £2 billion in investment, said Dona.
While this is slightly behind rival EE’s launch (last week) Dona said the company was first to declare its plans. He also said Vodafone wanted to launch the network “with full functionality”, unlike other operators across Europe, which was why it was launching in July.
Revealing more details on its wider network plans, the company said it was planning to switch off 3G in the next two-to-three years across the group, but added 2G will have a longer role, particularly for IoT connectivity.
The first, he said, were driven by the differences between the US and Europe in the availability of spectrum assets.
“Myth one is site densification. The idea that you have to have more sites for 5G over 4G. That is just not true for the way we are deploying 5G, which is using mid-band spectrum and low-band spectrum. You can build a fantastic 5G network with the same number of base stations.”
He said US operators had little to no access to mid-band and low-band spectrum, meaning they were relying on mmWave, which was fast, but not far reaching in terms of coverage.
Tackling the view that “5G spectrum is unhealthy”, he pointed out the low-band spectrum for in-house Wi-Fi had been deployed for years and there were no issues.
“Even in mmWave it is unlikely there are health issues,” he added.