Although slightly behind other operators O2 have announced the launch of their 5G network using its 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz spectrum later this year. The roll-out will begin in the four corners of the UK. Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London will be the first to benefit from O2’s 5G network. Other areas of the UK will enjoy roll-out from 2020 to coincide with the wider availability of 5G handsets.
Mark Evans, CEO, Telefónica UK, explained at the release of O2’s full year 2018 results that, while the company prepares for 5G rollout in 2019, it will work to build a 5G Economy in coalition with British industry, making the case for 5G in the UK and exploring the possibilities of the latest mobile standard. Evans elaborates:— Paolo Pescatore (@paolopescatore) May 10, 2019
Ahead of its #5G launch @O2 announces significant network investment at key locations such as sports venues and shopping centres $TEF pic.twitter.com/enrfJQtYUQ
“5G is a promise of so much more – for consumers, business, industry and public services. O2 is working in partnership with British industry, encouraging businesses, big and small, to engage with the possibilities of 5G technology through both our testbed programme and launch deployment. O2’s 5G network will arrive this year and we want the next-generation of mobile services to launch with a bang. 5G will benefit customers from launch, with better speeds and improved customer experience. Following the demand from our FTSE 100 trials, we are extending our testbed opportunities so that businesses of all sizes can work us to build the 5G Economy. Mobile is one of the UK’s most powerful opportunities to strengthen our economy and improve the lives of British people and 5G is a significant milestone for this nation.”While Derek McManus, the Chief Operating Officer of Telefonica O2 states that the operator has invested over £2 billion in their network in the last two years, and this he believes will pave the way for 5G:
“Mobile has become a necessity for consumers and businesses alike. It’s no longer just a phone. We bank, we shop, we watch content, and we do business on mobiles. In fact, it goes a long way beyond just person to person. For example, Transport for London relies on mobile to manage their timetable and ensure their buses run on time. And Uber, that’s the key platform to reach and connect to their customers. And we believe it has even more to offer. But 5G is more than just connectivity. I believe that has the potential to transform every sector that it touches, from transport to energy grids, from manufacturing to social and healthcare and from education to entertainment. For example, health. In the years to come, we wouldn’t need to visit a doctor surgery. In fact, research firm Juniper say that the NHS could benefit with GP hours over video conferencing and real time remote monitoring helped in helping to diagnose problems straight away."Telefonica O2 believe that the government will save a lot of money, thanks to the introduction of things like Smart Lighting, smart refuge collection, as well as improved social care. MIMO cities will increase the livability to the reduction in road congestion and real delays. 5g will offer manufacturers the chance to integrate intelligent mobility into the factories and truly take advantage of such technologies as automation. The opportunity for businesses and organizations is driven by the characteristics of 5G mobile networks.
To build a 5G Economy O2 is creating 5G innovation spaces for businesses of all sizes following demand for its FTSE 100 testbed opportunities. One such test bed is the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire. Here O2 along with several partners are testing and developing connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) technology.
The Millbrook network comprises 59 sites and 89 small cells, which is operated by wireless solution provider Dense Air. A 12-month agreement with the AutoAir project will see O2 integrate these sites and small cells into its public infrastructure.
The AutoAir project is one of six government-funded 5G testbeds, which are part of the national 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme launched in 2017. To date, AutoAir has received nearly £6 million in government funds and more than £4.5 million from matched industry funding.
The project aims to validate and develop CAVs using 5G technology, as well as intelligent transport systems (ITS) for roads and railways. The test 5G small cell network will be deployed in the sub-6 GHz and millimetrewave bands on a so-called “neutral host” platform that will allow multiple service providers to use the infrastructure via network slicing. The benefit of 5G is that its low latency and high capacity can enable vehicles to send data – even 4K video – to an ITS, which could help to improve road safety and reduce traffic congestion.
Earlier this year, the AutoAir 5G Testbed and Trials consortium was able to prove this capability, during tests at Millbrook that saw a McLaren sports car receive and send data at 1 Gbit/s whilst driving round the site at 160 Mph, and real-time UltraHD 4K video sharing between a network of moving vehicles.
O2 is also working with Nokia on two Massive MIMO trials in Kings Cross and Marble Arch, aimed at enhancing connectivity for O2 customers and paving the way for the future deployment of 5G across the capital. Massive MIMO technology works by sending multiple beams of data from an antenna to devices, increasing performance and enhancing capacity with the ability to serve more users simultaneously.
By trialling the technology in locations with high levels of data traffic, O2 will be able to boost coverage in these areas whilst also evaluating the technology for future deployment in urban areas. Over 95 million people travel through the Kings Cross St Pancras area every year and over 14 million passed through Marble Arch area last year.
The pilot uses the additional 2.3GHz spectrum that O2 secured earlier this year in the spectrum auction. O2 was the only UK network to secure extra 2.3GHz capacity to boost its existing network.
O2 does of course use Huawei equipment and Mark Evans has said the company was “mindful” of an ongoing Government review into the presence of Chinese firm Huawei in parts of 5G infrastructure, and said he hoped to see a “conclusion made on facts”. Mr Evans acknowledged the UK’s own National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is involved in the analysis of Huawei, is yet to report any security breaches involving the firm and that they currently “meet legislation”. He also told Sky News "there's no doubt" that banning Huawei from the UK will stall 5G mobile deployment.
Another O2 UK Huawei site with Massive MIMO 5G. O2 has found the Huawei light and now can't stop! pic.twitter.com/BWAJIwyPTa— Peter Clarke (@PedroClarke1) June 22, 2019