5G, the latest generation of mobile communications, is to be put to the test in four rural locations by Vodafone in early 2019. The locations – Roscommon, Gorey, Dungarvan, and Clonmel – are set to receive the service as part of an experiment into whether or not it can offer home broadband access to people living in more rural areas.
In comparison to the current standard of 4G, 5G offers lower latencies, improved speeds, and energy savings. What’s important to note however, is that while the technology for 5G is faster, very few mobile devices will be able to avail of it. Given that it is relatively new, only the latest flagship smartphones have support for 5G, and even then it’s not a guarantee.
That being said, the aim here is not to simply upgrade Vodafone’s existing network, but also to see if 5G offers a potential alternative to the fibre optic connectivity chosen for the National Broadband Plan. The government will likely be closely monitoring this experiment, as if the results are positive, there is a very real chance that 5G could replace fibre optics as the connection method of choice for the aforementioned plan.
This is because instead of having to run fibre optic cables to all of the approximately 542,000 buildings requiring a connection, cell towers could be placed across the country to provide 5G to those who need it.
5G can reach speeds of up to 1Gbps, and while that is nothing compared to fibre optics, it’s more than enough for most people’s daily usage.
“Connectivity and connected technologies are impacting every facet of our lives today and there is a huge demand all over Ireland for high speed broadband access,” said Max Gasparroni, Vodafone Ireland’s interim CTO.
However, last month the Chief Executive of Vodafone Ireland said that 5G could be used more as a complementary service, as opposed to a replacement one.
5G has already been launched by Vodafone on the Dublin Docklands, and the company has plans to expand it. This trial will be very telling in terms of the feasibility of a countrywide 5G network.