Vodafone UK is trialling its 5G standalone (SA) core network through the end of this month. The company says it plans to go commercial with its 5G SA core next year. It’s also asking for economic assistance from the U.K. government and the telecom regulator Ofcom in order to offer 5G SA in areas outside of major cities.

The trial this month is taking place in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Bath, Glasgow and Birmingham.

In order to participate in the trial, customers must be on a Vodafone Unlimited Max plan and have one of the following smartphones: Oppo Find X3/X5 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S21/S22.

Vodafone says eligible customers who opt into the trial will benefit from improved battery life and improved coverage.

The difference between 5G SA and 5G non-standalone is that non-standalone uses 5G radios with a 4G core. But 5G SA uses 5G in the radio access network (RAN) as well as the core.

One thing that 5G SA brings is improved smartphone battery life. For instance, AT&T stalled on activating its 5G SA core for a while until more devices were available that could handle the 5G network. Older devices tasked with using a 5G SA network saw impacts on their battery life.

Vodafone says that its 5G SA core will also be a boon to gamers who will see improved latency.

In addition, 5G SA will provide significantly better 5G coverage indoors, thanks to the use of lower frequency radio waves. And participants in the trial should see greater responsiveness and reliability in busy areas, as 5G SA is built to connect significantly more devices simultaneously.

Behind the scenes, 5G SA will provide improved security with advanced end-to-end encryption and next-generation security software.

As part of the trial, Vodafone will also test network steering, a technology that allows the network to direct a device automatically toward the right connectivity (4G, 5G non-standalone or 5G SA), depending on what services are being used.

When 5G SA is generally deployed, it will enable Vodafone to implement network slicing in order to sell dedicated slices of the mobile network to enterprise customers for their specific use cases. For example, one slice could be reserved for emergency services, prioritizing that traffic over everything else. In March 2022, Vodafone and Ericsson completed lab trials for network slicing.

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