Vodafone opens 5G, IoT innovation hub in Manchester

Vodafone’s new facility will allow local firms and start-ups to test 5G and IoT capabilities

U.K.-based telecom group Vodafone has inaugurated its 5G and internet of things center, dubbed ‘The Landing,’ in Manchester.

The new facility, located at MediaCityUK, will become a new innovation hub and technology incubator for local businesses and start-ups.

“The new Vodafone Innovation Hub at The Landing will be a significant centre for companies across greater Manchester and the North to test, deploy and commercialize new applications,” said Jon Corner, chief digital officer for the city of Salford and CEO at The Landing.

“It’s important to acknowledge that new technology – including 5G – is not just about faster mobile handsets,” Corner added. “It will change significantly how we organize networks, how we transact and use data, and how we use and consume content. It will enable companies working in immersive technologies and artificial intelligence, for example, to develop completely fresh applications to daily interactions. We intend to unlock the whole of MediaCityUK to be a living lab for innovators and entrepreneurs working across such technologies.”

“The hub at The Landing will give UK businesses, start-ups and tech innovators access to 5G, IoT, high-speed fiber and our best technical resources and we plan to roll out these innovation hubs throughout UK cities,” said Anne Sheehan, enterprise director at Vodafone UK.

The new innovation hub complements Vodafone’s new 5G testbed at Media City.

In June, Vodafone unveiled seven cities that will become 5G trial areas, with roll-outs starting between October and December this year.

The carrier aims to test 5G at more than 40 sites in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester. Vodafone also expects to work with a number of enterprise customers, with a view to testing new 5G applications such as augmented and virtual reality in offices, factories and hospitals.

Vodafone plans to commercially launch 5G services in the U.K in 2020, the telco has previously said. Its initial 5G trials will allow the company to start limited deployments in dense urban areas in some markets during 2019.

In April, Vodafone tested the 3.4 GHz radio spectrum band on a live 5G network, which ran between Manchester and the company’s headquarters in Newbury. In order to carry out the 5G spectrum test, Vodafone used a site at its Manchester contact center, which houses around 1,000 customer service employees, and its offices in Newbury. The test relied on massive MIMO technology combined with 3.4 GHz running over the telco’s core 4G network.

Earlier this year, U.K. telcos obtained spectrum for the future provision of 5G services. Vodafone won 50 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.4GHz band after paying £378 million ($498 million). BT-owned EE won 40 megahertz for which it paid £303 million. Three secured 20 megahertz of 3.4 GHz spectrum at a cost of £151.3 million, while Telefónica-owned O2 picked up 40 megahertz for £318m.