Vodafone leads the way and starts 5G in Spain this Saturday but without Huawei handsets

Vodafone presented its 5G service for Spain on Monday.
Vodafone presented its 5G service for Spain on Monday. / SUR
  • Spain is seen as one of the European countries best prepared for the superfast download speeds and is the first place where the British giant will launch a service

Earlier than expected, Vodafone will launch the next generation mobile phone technology into Saturday, 15 June. It is the first country where the British-based giant will introduce the much-anticipated 5G.

The 5G network will be available for the moment in 15 major cities and other places will be added "little by little". Malaga is among these first 15 cities.

About half the population in these areas will be covered from the start, said Vodafone's Spanish boss, Antonio Coimbra at a presentation on Monday.

The speed of roll-out for the new 5G technology (for the limited amount of handsets able to handle it) will be gradual, however. It will bring significantly faster download speeds and allow much more connectivity between devices, stimulating the so-called Internet of Things.

One of the unknowns is if Vodafone will keep Huawei as a preferred partner following US President Trump's veto of the Chinese supplier. For the moment, the company will keep working with Huawei on the network infrastructure as well as with Ericsson, but won't add the Huawei handset to its product range. It says that the Huawei handset hasn't yet met regulatory approval but hasn't ruled out adding it in the future.

The three makes of phone that will be on sale via Vodafone for 5G are Samsung, LG and Xiaomi.

After Spain, Vodafone will launch 5G in Italy two days later, on 17 June, in the UK on 3 July and Germany will follow "over the summer".

With a 5G connection and a suitable handset, data download speeds will reach 1 gigabit per second (gbps) on Saturday, increasing to 2 gbps by the end of the year.

100 times current speeds

Eventually 5G could reach 10gbps, around 100 times current speeds with the common 4G smart phones and permit up to a million devices in a square kilometre to be connected. This will allow people's home appliances to be connected, remote surgery, cloud computing for everyone, self-driving cars and advances in artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Within the EU, Spain is seen as the eighth most prepared for 5G technology, behind Finland, Italy, Germany, France, Austria, Latvia and Denmark.

Vodafone's roll-out is expected to be gradual as all phone operators are believed to see mileage in the existing 4G technology. Rival networks to Vodafone in Spain appear to be somewhere behind in 5G with Movistar not expected to launch until 2021 and with a focus on industrial and business customers.