Mobile operator Vodafone has launched its 5G network in seven cities in the UK, saying it hopes to become the “5G destination” for users.
The telecoms giant will also introduce roaming in Spain, Italy and Germany by the end of July – the first network to offer 5G roaming – and will expand the new network to 19 key UK cities by the end of 2019.
Its 5G network has gone live in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester.
5G technology is the next generation of mobile network and is expected to offer internet speeds several times that of current generation 4G.
Vodafone consumer director Max Taylor said the firm was “bringing 5G to more places than anyone else”.
He said the launch of roaming would reach 20 cities across Europe by the end of July, adding the firm “won’t charge a premium” for 5G plans, instead pricing its plans at the same rates as its 4G offerings.
As part of the rollout, Vodafone also announced several new unlimited data plans designed for 5G.
Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton joined Vodafone UK chief executive Nick Jeffery to officially launch the network.
Mr Taylor said launching its 5G network was “not about having the most 5G devices but the right ones”.
Vodafone confirmed it will offer the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G as its first devices on the new network, following a number of other mobile operators in leaving Huawei out of its 5G phone launch line-up.
The operator did not acknowledge Huawei’s absence during its 5G launch event.
The Chinese firm is the subject of a UK Government review into whether it should be allowed into “non-core” parts of the UK’s 5G network infrastructure.
The US has suggested Huawei could be used by China to spy on the West – claims the phone maker has repeatedly denied.
In May, when the company first confirmed its 5G plans, Mr Taylor said: “With regards to Huawei handsets, we are only pausing pre-orders for the Huawei Mate 20X 5G in the UK.
“This is a temporary measure while uncertainty exists regarding new Huawei 5G devices. We will keep this situation under review.”
Vodafone will sell a 5G GigaCube portable router, which is made by the Chinese firm.
Industry analyst Kester Mann from CCS Insight said Vodafone’s launch could be seen as a potential turning point for the firm.
“After a turbulent recent period, Vodafone finally has its mojo back,” he said.
“At long last, there is an air of optimism, positivity and ambition to regain former glories in its emotive home market.
“Vodafone’s move into unlimited data and its decision to price 5G the same as 4G indicate the emergence of a challenger mentality.
“This is in sharp contrast to its traditional premium-focused approach.
“It could spell bad news for Three, which has built a strategy based on challenging industry norms.”
He added: “Coverage will form a lead part of Vodafone’s 5G message as it seeks to differentiate from rival offers.
“In addition to its UK roll-out, roaming in Germany, Spain and Italy will help justify its ‘5G in more places’ claim.”
Fellow UK operator EE launched its own 5G network in May, while Three is due to begin rolling out its network in August, with O2’s expected to follow before the end of the year.