VOXI has made no official statement with regard to 5G to-date.
Expected second half 2019.
Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester
VOXI runs off of Vodafone’s infrastructure, in fact it’s owned by Vodafone, so it will make use of Vodafone’s 5G coverage (once there is any).
But it’s also distinct from Vodafone in terms of its focus and selling points, which we’ll look at below as related to 5G.
And running off the back of a large UK network it’s likely that VOXI will be in a good position when 5G does come around. Read on below for an overview of where VOXI’s at now, and where 5G could take it.
VOXI hasn’t yet confirmed when it will be launching a 5G network. As it uses Vodafone’s infrastructure (and is run by Vodafone) it won’t be able to until Vodafone does, which likely means the second half of 2019 at the earliest.
However, there’s every chance that Vodafone will initially keep 5G as a ‘premium’ perk that you have to be on the main network to get, so we wouldn’t be surprised if VOXI is waiting until 2020 or later.
The good news though is that during that wait Vodafone will be expanding its 5G infrastructure and coverage, all of which will benefit VOXI as soon as its 5G network is enabled, so it might end up offering widespread coverage on day one.
Vodafone has announced plans to launch a 5G service in Cornwall and the Lake District during 2019. So if VOXI gets a 5G network at the same time then those are also likely to be among its launch locations.
Other early locations are likely to include Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester, as Vodafone is using those cities for 5G trials.
Vodafone aims to have 1,000 5G sites live by 2020, which suggests the network has accelerated its launch plans, as previously it said it wouldn’t be launching before early 2020.
Of course, the roll out will be gradual, with Vodafone saying that it will follow a similar pattern to 4G and that around 50% of UK devices should be able to get a 5G signal by the mid-2020s, so you probably shouldn’t expect comprehensive coverage until the late 2020s.
It’s also worth noting that VOXI may not launch a 5G service at the same time as Vodafone, which means that its selection of launch locations may not be the same as Vodafone’s, but the upshot is that wherever Vodafone offers 5G when VOXI launches its 5G service, VOXI presumably will too.
No launch devices are yet confirmed for VOXI’s 5G network. We’d expect a range will support it, though VOXI only directly sells a fairly small selection of phones currently. We’ll update this section as soon as we learn more.
VOXI currently stands out primarily by offering free social media use. Customers can use Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Viber and Facebook Messenger as much as they want without it coming out of their data allowance.
With these services being one of the main things many people use data for, and getting more popular all the time, that’s a big bonus, and one which is likely to continue being offered when 5G is available.
VOXI’s reliance on Vodafone also puts it in a strong position, as Vodafone currently has 4G coverage for around 99% of the UK population and it’s growing all the time, showing that it’s committed to offering widespread coverage – a commitment we’d expect to continue when it rolls out 5G.
Vodafone has also started offering speedy LTE Advanced in some locations, which is essentially 4.5G and shows the company is keen to upgrade its network and offer faster speeds.
VOXI will use Vodafone’s spectrum, meaning it should have access to 226Mhz of the stuff. That includes 50MHz of 3.4GHz spectrum, acquired at the 5G spectrum auction.
This spectrum is the 3410MHz – 3460MHz part of the band and it’s a band that’s well suited to 5G. It’s worth noting that Vodafone won more 3.4GHz spectrum at auction than any other UK network.
The remaining 176Mhz of spectrum covers multiple bands but isn’t specifically being set aside for 5G – it’s what the network is using now for its 3G and 4G services, but it will be beneficial to 5G as well.
Immediately useable spectrum
|3.4GHz held||3.4GHz allocation||Total spectrum held|
Note: 'Immediately useable spectrum' refers to spectrum in various bands that can be used now for 4G, 3G and 2G. Vodafone holds spectrum in the 800MHz, 900MHz, 1.4GHz, 1.8GHz, 2.1GHz and 2.6GHz bands.
This is unlikely to remain Vodafone or VOXI’s total spectrum holdings though, as there will be opportunities to acquire more. First up, Ofcom is expected to auction spectrum in the 3.6GHz – 3.8GHz range and the 700MHz band at some point, and additional bands are also being considered for auction.
Vodafone owns VOXI, so Vodafone’s trials are essentially VOXI’s trials and Vodafone has been carrying out a lot of them.
For example, it has launched the UK’s first full 5G trial in Salford, and has since begun trials in six more cities. It has even begun testing 5G on a smartphone-sized device – something which is vital to ensure the tech will function properly on phones.
The network has also made a holographic call over 5G, and became the first UK network to test 3.4GHz spectrum for 5G use. Vodafone has also achieved 20Gbps speeds in a field test, suggesting that speed could be a focus.
Plus, Vodafone has helped approve the first 5G standard and become the first network to complete a standalone pre-standard 5G trial. It's also carrying out 5G New Radio field trials in collaboration with Qualcomm and Nokia.
Other development activities
As with everything else, VOXI will be relying on Vodafone here, and one thing Vodafone seems interested in is connected cars, which are likely to be a key use case of 5G. Indeed, Vodafone Ireland has been working on the technology for over two years.
Vodafone is also launching an Innovation Hub at MediaCityUK, to give companies access to 5G resources, helping them to develop new products and services and benefit the local area.
Another part of Vodafone's move towards 5G is the construction of Massive MIMO sites in hotspots across the UK. It's building 30 of these, which are able to send and receive far more data than a conventional antenna (which is key to 5G), and which should improve coverage both indoors and out.
Vodafone also plans to add Narrowband-IoT support to its existing 4G network to bring 5G-like benefits before 5G is actually available, by improving indoor coverage and supporting a high number of low-power devices within close proximity. These improvements could also benefit VOXI.