VodafoneZiggo heralded the launch of commercial 5G services, several weeks before an official auction of next-generation frequencies is scheduled to take place in the Netherlands.

In a statement, the operator said it would begin offering 5G from today (28 April) by rejigging its 4G network using a spectrum sharing system from Ericsson. The service will initially be available “in more than half of the Netherlands” with nationwide coverage due “by late July”.

CEO Jeroen Hoencamp explained availability of the service is possible “because 5G is an evolution”.

“We will make use of innovative technology to apply 5G in existing frequency bands, using our existing antennas,” he added, highlighting growing demand for mobile data “and developments of today and tomorrow”, particularly around AR and VR services, as an apparent motivation.

Ericsson noted VodafoneZiggo turned off its 3G network in February, which freed capacity in the 2100MHz band, with the operator adding it began marketing 5G tariffs a month later.

However, despite what Hoencamp said was a move making VodafoneZiggo “the frontrunner” in the next-generation technology, the launch comes well in advance of an auction of 5G frequencies in the country.

Under plans outlined in December 2019, the Netherlands intends to conduct a sale of 700MHz, 1400MHz and 2100MHz frequencies in June. A sale of 3.5GHz spectrum is scheduled to take place in 2022, with the band currently being used by the nation’s satellite defence system.