At the moment there are a few 'next big things' coming in the tech industry. One of them is 5G, which the industry has been slowly prepping for over the past several years. While the new network infrastructure will have a lot of benefits for businesses and the enterprise sector, there are plenty of commercial benefits as well, like fast speeds and low latency. The bad news has always been that we'd have to wait until 2020 for the commercial services to launch properly, but like EE Vodafone has announced that it wants to launch next year.
Vodafone's already announced plans for seven 5G test hubs across the UK, and it's just announced that these hubs will form the basis for the 5G rollout - with plans to launch the first commercial services as soon as 5G handsets are available to consumers. For those that haven't been following this very closely, the first wave of handsets are expected in early to mid 2019, in time for the launch of commercial 5G in South Korea in March.
An exact time frame has yet to be announced, primarily because we don't know exactly when 5G handsets will be available. We also don't know if a 5G contract will end up costing more than standard 4G, and how much of a dent it's likely to put in customers' bank accounts. But this is still quite a big deal. EE had taken some flack for announcing its plans to launch 5G next year, which it wasn't too happy with, but now it seems as though their plans aren't that daft.
Obviously commercial 5G launched next year won't offer many of the 5G capabilities that have been promised, and will rely heavily on existing 4G networks to function. That said the same will be true of 5G services launched in 2020, seeing as how 5G network capabilities will be a continually ongoing process. At least we'll be able to enjoy the fast speeds from the get-go, making those 4G connections look snail-paced in comparison.
As for the rollout Vodafone has announced that the first 5G test hub to go live will be in Manchester, with other sites to follow. The plan is to have 1,000 5G sites going live by 2020, with the promise that they won't just be rolled out to urban areas. The Lake District was specifically mentioned as one of the rural areas that can expect early access to 5G services.