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October 7, 2020

Vodafone looking to ‘redefine telecoms’ with 5G and IoT

UK-based operator making strategic investments and partnerships in emerging technologies.

By Edward Qualtrough

Vodafone has been making significant strategic investments in 5G and internet of things, which analysts GlobalData believe are two of the biggest technology ‘Themes’ that will define success in the telco space.

Recognised by the research company as a high-flyer in its telecoms scorecard, the UK-based operator is part of the inaugural Technology Leaders Index as a pacesetter in

Chief technology officer Scott Petty said that 5G could “redefine telecoms companies over the next few years” — the company has launched innovation centres, worked with government innovation incubators, and partnered with industry to develop private 5G networks for organisations including Ford and Centrica.

Vodafone also became the first UK mobile operator to switch on a live OpenRAN (Open RadioAccess Network) site. It is hoped that in the shorter term the open-source telecoms infrastructure will help operators scale their networks in more rural areas, while Petty also noted the more experimental infrastructure could play a crucial role for operators in stripping out Huawei equipment from 5G networks ahead of the Government’s 2027 deadline.

The company also has ambitious sustainability goals; in July 2020 it announced that its European network will be powered by 100% renewable electricity no later than July 2021, and that it planned to grow business in its 11 markets using only power from wind, solar or hydroelectric sources.

In the same month, Vodafone also announced a partnership with Defra and Forest Research to explore how Narrowband-IoT can be used to monitor tree growth and the impacts of environmental change on the UK’s forests. While the initial focus of the initiative is on monitoring forests, Defra chief technology officer Malcolm McKee said that the technologies in the trial will apply to much broader environment monitoring.

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Another IoT partnership was announced by Vodafone UK in May 2020 — joining Digital Barriers to launch a new IoT-enabled heat detection camera targeting coronavirus infections. The initiative involves HD thermal imaging cameras delivering reliable, real-time body temperature screening, with the capacity to screen up to 100 every minute to assess individual body temperatures.

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