Vodafone UK launched commercial pilots of standalone (SA) 5G services across three cities, building on an initial trial in 2020 as it looks to test new use cases and approaches including network slicing.

The operator said pilots in London, Manchester and Cardiff would focus on testing new capabilities enabled by SA 5G along with allowing partners to trial compatible devices on a live network.

Vodafone conducted a trial with Coventry University in July 2020, when it used educational facilities to test VR for student nurses and other training in healthcare.

In addition to network slicing, Vodafone said it expected SA 5G to deliver ultra-low latency capabilities essential for increased connectivity in vehicles, and a fully virtualised cloud-native architecture helping to develop and introduce new services for customers.

Using parallel investments in multi-access edge computing and IoT, it will also look to tap into business use cases, and create services for smart cities and Industry 4.0.

Ericsson is deploying a cloud-native dual-mode 5G core and will also enable packet core applications across the operator’s network.

Vodafone added it has now deployed a pre-commercial SA 5G standalone core in Spain, working with Ericsson and Samsung.

It was an early mover in Germany too, when it commercialised the network in April this year.

Andrea Dona, chief network officer at Vodafone UK, said SA 5G was an important step which could be a “gamechanger” for customers and developers.