That means a network that uses upgraded technology throughout, rather than just using 5G radios on top of a 4G-era core network, which is what the UK’s other networks are currently doing.
Of course, this is just a trial, and it’s not available everywhere. Currently Vodafone’s 5G Standalone network is available to select customers with Samsung Galaxy S22/S21 series handsets or Oppo Find X3/X5 Pro series phones on Unlimited Max plans.
On top of that, it’s only currently available in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Bath, Glasgow, and Birmingham. You’ll get a text from Vodafone if you’re invited to take part in the trial, and participants will be able to opt out at any time.
But we can’t see why you’d want to opt out, because 5G Standalone is set to be an enormous upgrade. It makes for more responsive and reliable 5G networks, is less heavy on your smartphone’s battery, and offers lower latency, which is particularly beneficial for online gaming and video streaming, as well as for augmented and virtual reality, and even self-driving vehicles and remote surgeries.
It even improves 5G coverage, as Vodafone claims that even just its 5G Standalone trial is boosting coverage by the equivalent to the area over a million customers live in. Indoor coverage should receive a boost too, and 5G Standalone can be more secure, thanks to advanced end-to-end encryption and next-generation security software.
5G Standalone also enables new network features, such as network slicing, which allows portions of the network to be siloed off for specific purposes, and network steering, which can help a device automatically connect to the most ideal connectivity type for its current needs.
So 5G Standalone is a huge step, and this trial suggests it might soon start being properly rolled out – though Vodafone notes that support will be needed from the Government and regulators if 5G Standalone is to be made available across the UK, rather than just in major cities. Hopefully then that support will be forthcoming.
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James has been writing for us for over 10 years. Currently, he is Editorial Manager for our group of companies ( 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk) and sub-editor at TechRadar. He specialises in smartphones, mobile networks/ technology, tablets, and wearables.
In the past, James has also written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media, Smart TV Radar, and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV. He has a film studies degree from the University of Kent, Canterbury, and has over a decade’s worth of professional writing experience.