Vodafone goes live with first 5G trial site in Dublin’s docklands

21 Nov 2018

Dublin docklands. Image: © Michael/Stock.adobe.com

First with 5G, Vodafone plans to open up capabilities for Irish-based businesses and start-ups.

Vodafone has launched Ireland’s first live 5G network site, open for trials in Dublin’s docklands, as well as a 5G start-up accelerator.

The network consists of a fully standardised Ericsson 5G system being deployed over Vodafone Ireland’s recently acquired 5G spectrum.

‘It demonstrates the wider potential that the launch of our 5G network can bring, not just to business, but to communities and citizens in the future’

The move follows Vodafone’s first successful live demonstration of pre-standard 5G technology in Ireland last February, which achieved 15Gbps speeds with a latency of less than five milliseconds.

As part of the auction for the first slices of 3.6GHz spectrum – crucial to 5G – announced by ComReg last year, Vodafone obtained 85MHz in rural regions and 105MHz in cities.

Vodafone said will use this site to trial the latest 5G hardware, software and services as they become available in advance of 5G products hitting the market, and will continue to expand coverage in the area over the coming months.

The network site will be open to businesses that will be looking to validate new products or services that require high-speed 5G capabilities.

To prove the base station’s capabilities, the first Irish-international holographic call was carried out between Ireland and Vodafone’s innovation centre in Germany using fully standardised 5G technology. Hosted by Vodafone Ireland’s CEO, Anne O’Leary, the holographic call involved a Q&A session with Max Gasparroni, Vodafone Ireland’s interim CTO, who was in Germany.

“Making Ireland’s first ever live holographic call over 5G was a demonstration of how this new technology could eventually transform how we interact with each other across borders and time zones,” O’Leary said. “It also demonstrates the wider potential that the launch of our 5G network can bring, not just to business, but to communities and citizens in the future.

“With the speed and efficiency now offered, we can experiment with new and innovative IoT [internet of things] devices that will ultimately have the power to transform how we deliver products and services. Using our testbed in the docklands, companies can now experiment and work to improve life-changing technology, such as medical devices.”

5G accelerator programme for start-ups

Vodafone and Ericsson have also partnered with NovaUCD, the Centre for New Ventures and Entrepreneurs at University College Dublin (UCD), to create a new 5G accelerator programme.

Through the nationwide programme, participants will have the opportunity to develop and enhance their business plans, and validate the commercial potential and technical feasibility of innovative 5G-enabled products and services.

Candidates who successfully complete the 5G accelerator programme will be eligible for early-stage investment to bring their plans to fruition in Ireland. Successful applicants will also gain access to mentors and potential investors, venture programmes, IoT and 5G use-case development programmes, and finance.

“Participants on the programme will be able to access the business and technical expertise of Vodafone and Ericsson in 5G, as well as the expertise at NovaUCD, in developing and scaling new, innovative, high-tech ventures, attracting investment and taking on the global opportunities created by 5G,” explained Tom Flanagan, director of enterprise and commercialisation at UCD.

Ericsson Ireland managing director John Griffin said that the company is determined to roll out 5G to businesses and consumers in Ireland. “The first international holographic call is an important milestone in achieving our goal. Holographic calls are just the start. The benefits of 5G will impact the whole economy, especially the thriving Irish technology sector. Ericsson is committed to R&D and a collaborative approach to 5G roll-out in Ireland. The accelerator programme with NovaUCD will be a springboard for entrepreneurship in the new 5G ecosystem.”

5G first moves

The move by Vodafone is the latest in a flurry of activity around the forthcoming 5G mobile standard. Rival operators including Eir and Three have revealed that investment programmes are being prepared for the new technology.

Earlier this year, Three Ireland CEO Robert Finnegan said the company plans to invest €100m a year on a 5G roll-out plan in the Republic of Ireland.

And last week Eir revealed that it was making a €150m investment in its mobile network, which will see it deliver 4G voice over LTE (VoLTE) and data across more than 99pc of the geography of Ireland. It is understood that Eir also plans to roll out 5G services, starting first in Irish cities, in 2019.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years