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Vodafone UK Test Ultrafast 5G Fuelled WiFi at Manchester Airport

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019 (9:18 am) - Score 2,152

Download speeds of up to 200Mbps have been seen after Vodafone UK added Manchester Airport to their public test sites for future 5G based Mobile Broadband technology. As a result travellers have been able to try ultrafast broadband speeds by connecting to the new network via WiFi.

At present a lot of the early UK tests of 5G technology (mostly conducted via the 3.4GHz band) seem to be more about marketing gimmicks (e.g. Three UK’s mixed reality catwalk at London Fashion Week) than true deployments, which is in no small part due to the lack of final consumer hardware (the first 5G equipped mobiles should follow later this year).

The same is true for Vodafone’s new deployment at Manchester Airport, which invites people to sit inside a special “5G blast pod” (pictured) and connect via an extremely fast WiFi network. The WiFi is distributed via the operator’s “portable” Active Antenna (Massive MIMO) equipped Gigacube router, which itself connected via a short-range 5G radio link that is ultimately fed capacity via a fibre optic connection.

The new technology is often spoken of as being an ultrafast multi-Gigabit speed capable mobile broadband service, but in the real-world such performance may be stunted by the capacity demands of many users, as well as the limitations of your hardware and of the capacity supply itself. In this case WiFi device performance may be the biggest hindrance.

In keeping with that it’s little surprise to find that some speedtests conducted near to the pod tended to vary, although download speeds of around 100-200Mbps were recorded via WiFi (latency times hit around 25-35ms but that may be partly influenced by the speed tester itself) and this compared with c.20Mbps on a standard 4G link.

NOTE: The 4G link will naturally be much more saturated with users than a limited 5G test conducted via WiFi.

vodafone_5g_speed_test

On top of that it should be noted that at present operators only tend to be using the 3.4GHz band for tests like this, while significantly faster speeds will become possible once Ofcom has auctioned off the next batch of 5G friendly spectrum during 2019 and 2020 (700MHz and 3.6 – 3.8GHz etc.); several bands can be used at the same time via Carrier Aggregation.

Nick Jeffery, CEO of Vodafone UK, said:

“We all love to catch up on our favourite TV shows, play games or finish off some work when travelling. 5G, with its fast speeds and quick response times, will make that quick and easy, even in busy locations. We are proud to be the first provider to bring 5G to an airport and will be adding more major travel hotspots to our 5G network throughout the year.”

All of this appears to complement Vodafone’s on-going pre-commercial 5G trials (here), which began last year and are currently taking place in parts of Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool and London via the 3.4GHz spectrum band. Some parts of Cornwall, the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands will also be included.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
8 Responses
  1. 5G Infinity says:

    Not sure I understand why they did this, 3CA on 4G Adv Pro can do 600 to 900Mbps depending on channel size direct to handset

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Marketing and in a busy airport you’d be lucky to get over 100Mbps on even strong 3CA 4G. Possibly during a low period after midnight.

    2. Mike says:

      I suspect the real limit was backhaul in this test run.

  2. Alex says:

    Personally wouldn’t have called it a “blast pod” in an airport…

  3. Craig says:

    Anyone know if the new iPhones being released in September 2019 will have 5G capability?

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Some reports last year suggested they wouldn’t be able to do it until 2020, so we’ll have to see. In any case IMO you’re always best to skip the first generation phones for a new mobile technology as it’s usually much better refined in the second generation chipsets.

  4. Tomas says:

    I pulled in 230mbit on Fast.com on EE 4G at Heathrow. This was also at 13:23 December 3rd, it wasn’t quiet.

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