O2 has announced that it will launch its iteration of the next-generation mobile service (5G) in October, making it the last of the major networks to provide the service.
The roll out will start with a few major cities including London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast and Leeds, followed by another 50 locations by next summer.
The company has stated that their initial focus will be on providing 5G services to sites where capacity is stretched, including train stations and major entertainment venues. The O2 Arena in London, Edinburgh's Princes Street and Leeds' White Rose Shopping Centre will all be first in line to see the upgrade.
Vodafone and BT already provide 5G connectivity, with Three about to launch their 5G network next month. O2 said that its 5G service will provide customers with greater reliability and faster download speeds.
Despite being late to the game, O2 won’t fall too far behind its competition as Kester Mann from advisory firm CCS Insight points out:
"There's been a lot of talk about speed, but actually there aren't the apps and services there for customers to tap into that in any great way yet. So, these are just the very first steps in a 5G marathon."
O2 will be the only network providing 5G services without the use of equipment provided by Chinese manufacturer Huawei.
They did initially trial Huawei’s 5G service within the UK, but opted for products by two other companies who already provide O2’s 4G functionality. Speaking on the decision not to go with Huawei, chief executive of O2, Mark Evans, told the BBC:
"We respect all three operators, they were thorough in their submissions. But we were convinced that the best choices for us at this time are our current partners, which are Ericsson and Nokia."
Earlier this week the UK government postponed making a decision on whether to ban the use of Huawei’s technology within any of the UK’s 5G networks amidst concerns that the company poses a risk to national security.
Back in April, Prime Minister Theresa May took the stance that any potential threat could be managed by the UK. However pressure from the US, and speculation about Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle, resulted in the government conducting an investigation into the future of the UK’s telecoms sector.
O2 have not ruled-out doing business with the Chinese company in the future, and explained that Huawei being in the running (along with Ericsson and Nokia) helped O2 achieve a better deal during the bidding process.
"The least we need is clarity of who we can work with and under what circumstances," added Mr Evans. Not having that clarity is frustrating because that undoubtedly could slow us down in either our decision making or our execution. So, I would still encourage the government to conclude their review and finalise their judgement ASAP."
Despite having opted not to use Huawei’s services themselves, the government’s verdict will still affect O2 as the network plans to share some of Vodafone’s 5G cell sites - which will make use of the Shenzhen company’s products.
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