Virgin Media O2 switches on 5G Standalone

Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) has announced the switch-on of its 5G Standalone (5G SA) network in 14 cities across the UK.

The 14 locations to gain VMO2 5G SA are Liverpool, Manchester, London, Lincoln, Birmingham, Sheffield, Glasgow, Newcastle, Leeds, York, Belfast, Cardiff, Nottingham and Slough.

The switch-on of 5G Standalone follows a year of investment by Virgin Media O2 in its mobile network, with the operator now providing 5G coverage to more than 50% of the UK population. In August 2023, VMO2’s business unit claimed a first in the UK with the launch of a portable commercial 5G SA private network.

5G SA is designed to increase network capacity, cut latency and support a massive increase in the number of connected devices. VMO2 said this will unlock many of the innovative use cases associated with 5G, including autonomous transport services, remote healthcare and fully robotic factories.

That will also enable network slicing and pave the way to offer dedicated services for things such as augmented reality, gaming, advanced robotics and other business use cases. The 5G SA network also uses more energy-efficient technology, helping the operator to cut its energy use and emissions in line with its ambitious Better Connections Plan.

“The launch of 5G Standalone is the culmination of a multi-year programme, and is a real leap forward in the evolution of our mobile network,” said VMO2 chief technology officer Jeanie York.

“While it’s still early days, our customer-centric roll-out will continue throughout 2024 with some consumer customers seeing the immediate benefits, including increased reliability and coverage. This new technology will future-proof our mobile network for years to come, and paves the way for exciting customer-led innovations in the future.”

Kester Mann, director of consumer and connectivity at CCS Insight, said: “The launch of 5G Standalone is an important milestone for Virgin Media O2 as it opens the door to it offering a host of new services. Many of these are associated with the long-term vision of 5G, such as network slicing and super low-latency applications. With availability in 14 cities across the UK, many customers will already be able to enjoy the benefits of faster speeds and enhanced network capacity.

Going forward, VMO2 has committed to the roll-out of 5G Standalone to more towns and cities throughout the UK in 2024, as it continues investing in its network to improve mobile connectivity. In 2023, the operator upgraded its 4G network in over 465,000 UK postcodes.

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