Operator plans to have 1,000 5G base stations up and running by 2020
Vodafone showed off its 5G prowess on Thursday by conducting what it claims is the U.K.’s first ever live holographic call using 5G technology.
The call was carried out between the telco’s Manchester office and Newbury headquarters, and featured England women’s football captain Steph Houghton appearing on stage in hologram form to give football tips to a young fan.
It would be easy to dismiss the demonstration as a gimmick, but Vodafone insisted that it points to exciting possibilities that next-generation mobile technology can bring to sport, such as remote coaching and training, as well as opportunities for richer interaction with fans.
"Vodafone has a history of firsts in UK telecoms – we made the nation’s first mobile call, sent the first text and now we’ve conducted the U.K.’s first holographic call using 5G," said Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery, in a statement.
Of course, holographic 5G calling is only possible when there is a network in place, and with that in mind, Vodafone shared plans to roll out infrastructure in Cornwall and the Lake District next year, and to have 1,000 5G sites up and running nationwide by 2020.
In addition to showcasing 5G, Vodafone also launched new initiatives and tariffs targeted at small businesses and entrepreneurs.
These include a new digital incubator in Manchester; a £300,000 Techstarter award for innovative technology with a social purpose; and a mentorship programme in partnership with Oxford University Innovation called Bright Sparks.
Meanwhile, Vodafone UK’s retail and contact centre staff will be given the opportunity to learn coding via the operator’s new Code Ready scheme. The company is also launching the Vodafone Digital Degree, which combines a computer science degree from the University of Birmingham with a tech apprenticeship at Vodafone.
For small business customers, Vodafone on Thursday launched what it calls a self-optimising tariff that automatically moves subscribers to the most cost-effective plan. It also unveiled Gigacube, a mobile WiFi hotspot that supports up to 20 connections. Vodafone is pitching it to pop-up businesses like shops and restaurants, and companies setting up temporary satellite offices.
"The initiatives we’ve launched today are designed to ensure that everyone can benefit from the digital technologies transforming how we live and work. From our customers and employees, to university students, digital entrepreneurs and businesses, we want to help people across the UK get ready for a digital future," Jeffery said.