The operator announced on Monday that it had upgraded 1,000 sites to support standalone (SA) 5G

When we talk about 5G, it is all too easy to forget that most deployments of the new technology around the world are still heavily supported by 4G spectrum. While this has allowed many operators to rollout 5G at a far larger scale than would otherwise have been possible, this non-SA 5G cannot deliver the ultra-low latency and greatly increased capacity demanded by some of the more advanced 5G use cases.

For that, the operators will need SA 5G and now, following an upgrade of around 1,000 sites, Vodafone Germany has announced that it has activated the first commercial SA 5G network in Europe.

Vodafone Germany, working with Ericsson, Qualcomm, and Oppo, has upgraded all of its mobile sites in the 3.5 GHz range, switching them to an independent 5G core network that no longer relies on 4G. The move will allow SA 5G to be experienced in around 170 cities and municipalities, including major cities such as Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, and Düsseldorf.

“We are clearing the way for real-time connectivity. 5G is standing on its own two feet in Germany for the first time,” said Vodafone Germany CEO Hannes Ametsreiter. “We are the first network operator to put aside the LTE support wheels for 5G – not for internal tests, but for our customers, who can experience real-time connections.”

The advantages of SA 5G are plain to see, with Vodafone saying the move will allow for around ten-times the amount of people and machines to be simultaneously connected per square kilometre. Furthermore, the latency will be greatly reduced, with the first sites offering latency of 10–15ms compared to 35ms on non-SA 5G.

“[A connection] as fast as the human nervous system,” noted Vodafone Germany CTO Gerhard Mack. 

Further site upgrades are planned over the coming months, which will see around 4,000 sites connected to SA 5G by the end of 2021.

For the time being, Vodafone Germany can enjoy being the only operator in Germany to offer SA 5G. Deutsche Telekom said it would trial SA 5G near Munich in February this year, while Telefonica Germany has said it will launch its SA 5G network by the end of 2021.


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