As our movement and social activity is once again restricted nationally in an effort to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we at Vodafone remain steadfast in our commitment to help keep families, friends, colleagues and businesses connected at this time.
The last eight months have shown us just how valuable network infrastructure is to our economy and society and we must not lose sight of the need to invest in the next generation of network capability. And so, while our teams continue to manage the ongoing increased demand on our network and help our customers, we are also focused on the future – and on 5G.
At Vodafone, we believe in enabling technology that has a positive impact on our citizens and communities and that which supports the build of our digital society.
Through significant investment and innovation, we have paved the way in developing and deploying 5G infrastructure in Ireland for the benefit of all. It has been without question an exciting journey made up of many firsts.
In February 2018, in partnership with Ericsson, we hosted the first successful live demonstration of pre-standard 5G technology in Ireland; and the following November, we became the first in Ireland to have a live 5G network site for commercial trials. We also completed the first ever Irish international holographic call between Germany and Ireland using 5G technology.
In August 2019, we were the first to market with Ireland’s first commercial 5G network. Since then, we have expanded our footprint and now have sites live in over 14 counties, with an ambition to have sites live in 26 counties by March 2021. This will mean a Vodafone 5G population coverage footprint of 30% by March 2021 and double that by early 2022.
In July 2020, we were also delighted to become the first mobile operator in Ireland to switch on Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) technology to speed up the rollout of 5G coverage. This technology will allow us to provide greater coverage to customers across the country in a faster and more efficient manner. It will enhance the customer experience while also providing a platform for businesses to continue innovating.
DSS will enable Vodafone to deliver both 4G and 5G on the same spectrum band using existing antenna infrastructure, allowing for a smooth transition between the two technologies and a quicker, cost-effective rollout providing greater access to 5G services.
This network will not only provide faster speeds for customers but will connect extensively more devices at one time than is currently possible.
That said, the most interesting thing about 5G isn’t just faster mobile speeds. It’s the endless technological possibilities that could be unlocked as a result of this connectivity – possibilities we can’t even imagine yet that will play a critical role in our response to COVID-19, and our future. This game-changing network will support many other new technologies – including the advancement of artificial intelligence, the internet of things and connected cities.
The potential for business that comes with 5G goes beyond greater e-commerce activity and into the realm of truly smart business operations and the digital society. 5G enables businesses and industries move to the next phase where new technologies can boost production at lower costs.
It can enable farmers to incorporate Artificial Intelligence (AI) into their day-to-day activities, providing them with data and insights to efficiently manage their operations remotely. 5G can support the construction industry to carry out on-site activity through remote vehicle connections – freeing up resources and costs.
The potential of 5G to alter how our Governments’ interact and respond to citizens, how our health-services best support those in their care – either in a hospital or in their home through emerging tele-medicine systems.
Through our strategic partnership with the UCC ASSERT Centre in Cork – the world’s first 5G connected training and telemedicine training centre, Vodafone is central to advancing new innovations within healthcare. We are supporting the development of real-world solutions for healthcare problems in the developed and developing world.
This partnership has already yielded results during the COVID-19 crisis, whereby Vodafone provided IoT connectivity for the development of the COVID-19 Remote Early Warning System (CREW) by ASSERT. This system remotely identifies healthcare staff who may be developing a temperature, symptomatic of the Covid19 virus.
These are just a few examples of uses that are already underway – that we know can be adopted and enhanced using 5G connectivity. But there are many more use cases yet to be imagined.
In a world that has been reinventing itself for centuries, we are now faced with our next evolution. As we try to imagine what the future looks like, by unlocking the true capability of mobile technology with the advancements of 5G, we will open up new opportunities necessary for the survival of our businesses and economy long into the future.
Research just last week from Huawei highlighted that a lack of investment in 5G in Ireland could see a slowdown in tech innovation and a reduction in economic growth. By 2030, this could mean a €12.6bn GDP loss. The research points to SME’s being particularly impacted by a lack of investment over the next decade.
Now is the right time for us all to fully embrace the critical role that next generation connectivity and innovation can play in re-building our future. I look forward to the next phase of the journey and witnessing the transformative effect the network will undoubtedly have in Ireland.