In the evening of 28 April, Vodafone is activating 5G in more than half of the Netherlands. This 5G coverage will reach all of the Netherlands by late July. New and existing Vodafone customers with 5G in their subscription and a suitable device with the latest software will be able to use 5G within a week in the coverage area. Outside this area, the device will automatically switch back to 4G.
Vodafone will hereby make smart use of the current frequencies and its existing antenna park. "We are introducing 5G via ‘Spectrum Sharing’ in our GigaNet. As a result, customers in the Netherlands can already experience the latest mobile generation, because 5G is an evolution that opens doors to new possibilities," explains CEO Jeroen Hoencamp of VodafoneZiggo.
More than ever, we are seeing how vital connections are in our society. Moving towards the future, 5G will gradually offer more capacity, stability and new mobile applications for consumers, government and the business community. Mobile internet is super-fast with 5G and real-time multiplayer games on smartphones will become a reality. In addition, 5G will open up new perspectives for sectors such as smart farming, medical care, smart cities and the enormous growth of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Already at Vodafone
With a view to the digital future, Vodafone is already taking the step to 5G in the Netherlands. Together with network partner Ericsson, it has continued to invest in its powerful GigaNet. First we will activate 5G in more than half of the Netherlands. We will extend this to national coverage by late July. In the words of Hoencamp: "We will make use of innovative technology to apply 5G in existing frequency bands, using our existing antennas. In doing so, we will be the frontrunner with regard to 5G in the Netherlands. We want to pass on this lead to our customers, because the network requires more capacity, higher speeds, lower response times and efficiency. For example, with regard to the increasing data usage and developments of today and tomorrow in the field of artificial and virtual reality."
5G devices and subscriptions
Vodafone already began including 5G in its subscriptions in early March 2020. All existing and new Vodafone customers with a Red (consumer) or Red Pro (business) subscription will have 5G access at no extra cost. These Red (Pro) subscriptions will be activated in the coming days, leading to the full activation of 5G within a week. By which date, Start customers will also be able to use 5G with an appropriate device via an add-on (of 2 euros per month). Vodafone currently offers the following devices for 5G use with settings for the Netherlands: Samsung Galaxy S20 5G, S20 +, S20 Ultra and Oppo Find X2 Pro, while more devices will follow. The 5G symbol will appear on the device when using these devices in the coverage area.
In existing frequencies
Vodafone is getting ahead of new 5G spectrum through the multi-band auction later this year with its introduction of 5G via current frequencies and existing antennas. This is made possible by the fact that there are several ways to use 5G. In a European context three new frequency bands have been agreed specifically for 5G: 700 megahertz, 3.5 gigahertz and 26 gigahertz. These are not yet available in the Netherlands. However, the new 5G technology can also be used in other frequency bands, for which mobile communications licenses have already been granted. This is precisely what Vodafone is doing: Using 5G technology in existing 4G frequency bands. This means that Vodafone is cleverly dividing its existing spectrum between 4G and 5G using Ericsson technology. Both protocols will continue to exist side by side. Moreover, because Vodafone will make use of existing frequencies, new masts will not be immediately necessary. This makes 'spectrum sharing' ideal for introducing 5G into the Vodafone network as a springboard for further 5G developments in the coming years.
Exactly how does 'spectrum sharing' work?
The 'fifth generation' (5G) is a new protocol for sending data packets via radio signals in a smarter, more efficient and faster way. For this 5G introduction Vodafone will make use of spectrum sharing or 'Dynamic Spectrum Sharing' (DSS). With this technology by Ericsson, a device can use the same spectrum for 4G and 5G connections. This is like "two languages" being spoken in the same frequency band. The smart network quickly chooses between 4G and 5G, depending on the capabilities of the device. Outside of the 5G coverage area, the device automatically switches to 4G. This way customers will have the best connection at all times.
Speed and response time
5G provides a better user experience by further improving response time and download speed. Actual speeds experienced by users depend on various factors such as network traffic, location, range and the specific phone. The response time (so-called latency) will improve by about 30 percent: from an average of around 30 milliseconds on 4G to below 20 milliseconds on 5G. The download speeds offered by 5G in this existing spectrum reach a maximum of 1Gbps, which is well above the maximum 350Mbps of current 4G subscriptions. In practice, this data rate will be on average ten percent higher in the beginning. This way, Vodafone is actively contributing to the 5G evolution, whereby customers can experience further improvements in the future.
Investment in digitisation in the Netherlands
"With the introduction of 5G, VodafoneZiggo is investing in the digital and economic development of the Netherlands," says Hoencamp, "Via the powerful GigaNet, we will offer super-fast internet throughout the Netherlands in 2021 with a download speed of up to 1 gigabit per second via the fixed network, without having to do any digging. With the addition of 5G, we want to offer the Netherlands the best fixed and mobile digital infrastructure in the world and create a new level of connectivity." This will help stimulate essential innovations in the areas of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI). This includes things like popular VR gaming, remote operations and streamlining industrial processes and stimulating innovations.