Vodafone to power new UK lab with 5G SA network

Vodafone said that the 5G lab will be located in Newcastle and will be operational from September this year

U.K. carrier Vodafone has partnered with Digital Catapult to launch a 5G immersive laboratory in the country, with the aim of helping local startups overcome barriers to adopt advanced technologies. The lab will include a 5G Standalone (5G SA) network, which Vodafone will provide and maintain as one of the project’s delivery partners.

In a release, the telco said that the 5G lab will be located in Newcastle and will be operational from September this year. The new facility will house a range of initiatives around digital training for enterprises.

The lab will be funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority and is expected to be ready in stages. The co-working space is expected to be ready by spring 2024, with the 5G immersive lab set to follow by the end of summer, Vodafone said.

Ashmita Randhawa, director of research and development at Digital Catapult North East Tees Valley, said: “The new 5G immersive lab in Newcastle represents a tremendous opportunity for local companies to access the latest immersive and 5G technologies that will shape the future of business. As part of Digital Catapult’s nationwide network of cutting-edge facilities, the lab will break down barriers to digital adoption and empower local businesses to embrace new solutions that can drive productivity, efficiency and growth.”

“Businesses are important pillars in any community. Not only for playing pivotal roles in driving job creation and contributing to both the local economy and the UK’s GDP, but also for sparking innovation, fostering entrepreneurship and driving diversity,” said Said Nick Gliddon, business director at Vodafone UK.

“However, in recent research, we found that U.K. SMEs are missing out on £8.6 billion ($10.8 billion) a year in productivity savings due to the slow roll-out of 5GSA. Now, more than ever, 5G digital innovation labs are vitally important in providing these businesses with access to the latest technology, which is needed to scale up their operations and stay competitive,” said Gliddon.

The report, “Supercharging Small Businesses”, published by Vodafone Business U.K., highlights how the accelerated deployment of 5G SA technology could boost productivity among SMEs. The report noted that the U.K. is currently on course to be the fifth most attractive place in Europe for SMEs to use technology to grow, trailing only Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands. However, the U.K. could leapfrog all its rivals into second place – behind only Denmark – if it can accelerate the roll out of 5G SA networks, the report added.

In November 2023, Vodafone had stated that the difference between slow and accelerated 5G rollout could represent an additional $9.27 billion to the U.K. economy.

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