Vodafone’s Head of Partnerships and Alliances, Kathy Quashie

Why channel partners should embrace 5G now

Kathy Quashie, Head of Indirect Business, Vodafone UK, discusses the 5G journey and the role partners have to play in maximising the available capability

There are two versions of 5G. The one we have now – consistently fast data speeds, to a growing range of consumer devices, across more and more towns and cities, reaching more people every day. And the one we could have in the future. The one that has the potential to deliver widespread change across UK industries.

To make this a reality, partners have a fundamental role to play in helping more businesses understand 5G, and showing them how they can leverage it to deliver real impact – from driving efficiencies to improving customer service.

That’s why right now is the perfect time for channel partners to embrace 5G.

The 5G opportunity
Vodafone launched 5G more than a year ago, when we switched on 5G in seven UK cities. Since then, we’ve added 5G to 57 more places in the UK and massively expanded coverage in those initial seven launch cities. The roll-out of Vodafone’s 5G network is bringing next-generation connectivity across the UK with the latest devices, offering much faster upload and download speeds than 4G – no matter the file size. This enables enhanced access to PDFs, PowerPoint presentations, videos and images.

As well as the 5G mobile private network (MPN) we’re building with Ford at its electric car factory in Essex, we’re also building 5G MPNs for Centrica at one of its gas plants too. Furthermore, at Coventry University, we have built the first ‘standalone’ 5G network to facilitate interactive virtual teaching. It is the first time that 5G standalone technology has been used commercially in the UK.

As we can see from these early 5G examples, the opportunity with the new technology is real. And channel partners will be able to offer customers new and wide-reaching solutions with real use cases to back up the visions. The evidence is mounting that 5G will enable businesses to work more quickly and efficiently, while increasing productivity and reducing costs.

With the promise of transformative and innovative applications, it is clear that 5G presents a tremendous opportunity to re-engage existing customers, and break into new areas. There’s excitement in our industry, and in the vertical sectors that we increasingly serve. There’s a buzz, and partners are embracing the opportunity more and more.

The risk of losing out on 5G
A report, commissioned by Vodafone, has found that upgrading the UK’s mobile infrastructure to 5G could be worth as much as £158billion to the economy over the next ten years, providing a much-needed financial boost to the country as it recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The value of 5G and the changes that it can bring are, I believe, only heightened by the challenging times that we’re in. Connectivity is more important than ever, and the demand upon connections is greater than ever too. That, coupled with an accelerated desire for change and revolution, will drive 5G business cases at great speed.

In this ‘connected’ landscape, businesses are looking for smarter ways to deliver a better customer experience and be more responsive to their customers’ needs. At the same time, they are having to evolve how they connect their own employees. Customers need to be at the forefront of their industries or risk being left behind. The same is true for all of us.

We have to be able to provide the connectivity services that meet new demands, and that inspire new ways of working. Because if we don’t, we risk losing out to competitors who are able to offer 5G-enabled services.

So, what can channel partners do now to ensure they remain ahead of the competition? Quite simply: they should start looking to build revenue streams with 5G, now. And to do that, they should be educating and inspiring customers of the technology’s many benefits.

To address soaring expectations around fast connectivity today, channel partners need to be showing the impact that 5G can have, while also reminding people that there are simple ways to get started. 5G is not just MPNs and bespoke technology installations – all that’s needed to get started is a 5G-ready device and a 5G router. There isn’t even a need to swap a SIM!

It is important for customers to be working with a partner who can adapt to the changing landscape, and help them on the 5G journey – perhaps starting small to show the reality, and then using market-leading early deployments to show the potential for their sector.

Because, ultimately, it will be those channel partners who are fastest to embrace 5G and adapt to the change in demand that will gain the competitive advantage in 2021 and beyond.

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