First taste of 5G for consumers, but will it make any cash?
O2 UK is the most recent operator to jump on the “5G test bed” bandwagon, with plans to trial the tech at the iconic former Millennium Dome in North Greenwich later this year.
Installation of the network will start in March, with demos scheduled of 5G-empowered virtual reality, augmented reality and live streaming in select areas of the location in half of 2018. The whole venue is to receive full scope until 2020.
The British tentacle of Spanish operator Telefónica did not give any detail with respect to how it would deploy the technology at scale, other than a vague statement that “in time” it would use the network to “test a variety of equipment and potential use cases for 5G under live conditions”.
The initial 5G services are not expected go live until 2019/20 – when probably, the O2’s coverage will be a promotional tool for the business.
In any case, a few operators have recognized it is hard to put forth a business case for the technology given the enormous amount of investment it requires to roll out.
In the mean time, 4G connectivity still stays patchy in numerous parts of the country – with the smaller operators O2 and Three keen to increase their share of the spectrum in the forthcoming auction. What’s more, O2 itself came last in several categories in a survey by network sleuth Rootmetrics. It was ranked as the worst of the four big mobile players in the UK with regards to network speed, network reliability, data performance, call performance and overall performance.
London’s chief digital officer Theo Blackwell noted that the project would give visitors “an early opportunity to experience the enhanced services that can be supported by 5G digital connectivity. This move by O2 is good news for London and its future.”
O2’s parent company Telefónica has already conducted its own particular trials, while Vodafone has completed tests with Huawei and Ericsson around Europe and in the UK.
A year ago BT’s mobile arm EE finished an end-to-end 5G connection of 2.8 Gbps, with Huawei. ®