Europe: Lagging North America in 5G

European operators like Deutsche Telekom, EE, O2, Swisscom, Sunrise and Vodafone are still trialling 5G in different cities but large scale commercial announcement is still a long way to go except UK

Europe has a long way to go in terms of 5G as operators are still trialling 5G in different cities whereas in the US operators have announced large scale deployment in 2020.

Vodafone has been trialling 5G technology in Italy, UK, Germany and Spain. In Milan, Vodafone has invested €90 million to build the first 5G network in Italy and has launched 31 5G use cases working with 38 industrial and public sector partners. The use cases cover health and wellbeing; security and surveillance; smart energy and smart cities; mobility and transport; manufacturing and industry 4.0; education; entertainment; and digital divide.

The use cases include a 5G connected ambulance developed with San Raffaele hospital; Europe’s first live 5G news broadcast with Sky; and a self-driving robotic vehicle delivering books at the Polytechnic University of Milan campus. Vodafone has also allocated €10 million over four years for the ‘Action for 5G’ competition for startups, SMEs and social businesses.

Vodafone UK is trialling 5G in seven cities and has successfully completed the country’s first holographic call when England and Manchester City Women’s Captain, Steph Houghton MBE who broadcast from Manchester to Vodafone’s headquarters in Newbury, Berkshire in order to give footballing tips to 11-year-old Manchester City and Lionesses fan, Iris.

Vodafone Germany is making the 5G standard fit for connected and autonomous driving in future utilising its 5G Mobility Lab and auto test track near Dusseldorf. It is now working with German broadcaster WDR to test the distribution of TV and Video on Demand content over 5G.

Vodafone Spain, completed the world’s first 5G call at Mobile World Congress in 2018 has 5G cell sites across six cities. The company is also supporting the development of 5G connected surgery in Spain working with L’Hospital Clinic in Barcelona to enable a specialist surgeon to guide an operation by another surgeon without being physically present.

Swisscom is planning to rollout 5G in 60 towns and communities by the end of 2019, providing customers with faster response times, higher speeds and greater capacity.

Urs Schaeppi, CEO, Swisscom said, “By building the 5G network, we are contributing to improving the competitiveness of Switzerland as a centre for business. We want to inspire people in the networked world, whether they are in the city or in the countryside.”

Sunrise in Switzerland is the first provider to launch “5G for People”. With “5G for People”, Sunrise is focusing in an initial phase on “fiber speed through the air” and on areas that are not covered by fiber optics networks. By end of March 2019, 150 cities/villages will have 5G coverage. These include cities with large populations like Dietikon, Bulach and Opfikon and smaller suburban and rural communities/villages like Autafond – part of the municipality of Belfaux, FR since 2015, Auboranges, Ecublens, FR and Boningen. All 150 cities/villages will have 5G population coverage between 80%.

From mid-March, around 100 selected 5G pioneers (residential and business customers) will be able to use “5G for People” – high-bandwidth Internet with up to 1 Gbit/s via mobile communications – with the Sunrise Internet Box 5G. More 5G services for private and business customers will be launched during the year via existing fixed network and mobile offers.

“Later this year and in addition to fiber offers, we will launch high-bandwidth Internet, our best TV offer and a phone package over 5G in non-urban areas. However, customers have not to worry about the technology. They automatically receive the best offer available at their home or place of business,” says Olaf Swantee, CEO of Sunrise, describing Sunrise’s 5G launch.

EE will launch 5G within 16 UK cities in 2019 – switching on 5G in the busiest locations across London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester as phase one of launch. As well as the six launch cities, through 2019 EE, will also be introducing 5G across the busiest parts of ten more UK cities: Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry and Bristol.

EE is upgrading to 5G where it can make the biggest difference to the most people. The first 1,500 sites that EE is upgrading to 5G in 2019 carry 25% of all data across the whole network today, but only cover 15% of the UK population. 5G is built on top of EE’s 4G network – customers’ 5G experience will be dictated by the quality of both 4G and 5G, as well as the underlying fixed network.

In Germany, Deutsche Telekom has set up 5G infrastructure in Darmstadt, Berlin and Hamburg. A first group of 5G antennas are now operational in Darmstadt. The new systems follow 5G-antenna test fields in Berlin and the Port of Hamburg. The aims in connection with the Darmstadt 5G test field include gathering experience with installation and operation of systems for the new technology. In addition, a range of 5G applications and devices will be tested.

Walter Goldenits, Chief Technology Officer, Deutsche Telekom said, “We are happy to see that Darmstadt, the Digital City, has joined Berlin and Hamburg in pioneering this new communications standard. We plan to carry out additional tests this year. After all, there will be no avoiding 5G in 2019.”

To help accelerate the development of new 5G applications, Deutsche Telekom, working in cooperation with hubraum, its Berlin-based start-up incubator, has launched a 5G prototyping program. The start-ups at hubraum are now using Deutsche Telekom’s 5G test field in Berlin to develop 5G applications under live conditions. The 5G cluster in Berlin, which has been in operation since May 2018, now comprises more than 50 antennas.

Since the end of January, hubraum’s Prototyping 5G program has been filled to capacity, with a total of 15 participating start-ups, including participants from Germany, Denmark, France, Poland, the Netherlands, England, Israel and Finland. The focuses for the new applications under development include the areas of virtual reality/augmented reality, virtual gaming, entertainment, robotics and future mobility. And with MobiledgeX edge software, available within Telekom Deutschland’s cloud infrastructure since November 2018, the startups also have the opportunity to test their 5G concepts and prototypes in an edge computing environment.

O2 will begin the rollout of its 5G network this year in the four corners of the UK – Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London in 2019. Other areas of the UK will enjoy rollout from 2020 to coincide with the wider availability of 5G handsets. To build a 5G economy, O2 is creating 5G innovation spaces for businesses of all sizes following demand for its FTSE 100 testbed opportunities Following demand for its 5G testbed opportunities, O2 is creating 5G innovation spaces across the country including in its Wayra accelerator hubs. The spaces will provide next generation 5G test environments accessible to business of all sizes alongside national launch to help fuel future innovation that will boost the British economy post-Brexit. O2’s call out to the FTSE 100 in July 2018 has led to leading UK businesses – across the construction, retail, transport and utility sectors – partnering with O2 to explore innovative 5G use cases. The use cases are anticipated to bring substantial business benefits by delivering efficiency savings while also having the potential to unlock new 5G enabled revenue streams. Mark Evans, CEO, Telefonica 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. “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,” added Evans.

It is not only about operators 5G commercial plan but handset availability which is restricting the operators to talk about commercial 5G launch in large scale. It is expected that by second half of 2019, more 5G handsets would be available in the market which will give lot of confidence to 5G operators in Europe.


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