(Pocket-lint) - Vodafone's 5G network is now live - it's the second UK 5G network after EE and before Three goes live with mobile 5G broadband in London next month.
Lewis Hamilton was present at the launch in London (insert some comment on speed) to press the big red button which switched on the network (OK, the button probably did nothing, but it was nice to see him).
Voda is also launching three Unlimited data plans at different speeds - £23 for 2Mbps on Lite, £26 for 10 Mbps - the main Unlimited plan - and £30 with the fastest speeds available. That's called Unlimited Max and is £30 a month. As with other Vodafone plans you get a benefit with it such as free Spotify, Amazon Prime or Now TV/Sky Sports Mobile TV.
Vodafone plans to have 1,000 5G sites live by 2020 in 50 towns and cities. The 5G network is launching in seven cities today including Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and London.
Birkenhead, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Guildford, Newbury, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Reading, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Warrington and Wolverhampton will go live imminently.
As for handsets, we knew before that Vodafone is ranging the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G and Samsung S10 5G - predictably it relented on providing customers with the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G due to the Huawei trade ban. However, Huawei itself says it will be available in the UK imminently - though that's no guarantee that it will come to Vodafone at that point.
However, Vodafone did announce the Huawei-made 5G Gigacube for 5G home and business broadband from £30 a month for 100GB going up to unlimited data if you're happy to spend £50. Another plan called Vodafone Together will provide you with mobile, home broadband over cellular and a free Amazon Echo Plus for £50 a month.
Huawei did send us a statement in support of the launch from Victor Zhang, Huawei senior vice president: "We're proud to be helping Vodafone open up a new world of seamless opportunities with their launch of 5G mobile services in the UK. This reinforces the UK as a 5G leader and builds on our 18 year history of supporting the digital economy here.”
At the launch of the 5G network, Scott Petty, Vodafone's chief technology officer, hailed how 5G will see data speeds of 10 times that of 4G over the coming years. "But 5G is about so much more than that...I'm very confident we'll see many 'things' connected to the network, just like when we couldn't have seen the potential of smartphones [when they were new] but can't live without them today, we're going to see the same transformation in services [over the coming years]"
"5G is a lot more efficient. Each antenna has 64 transmit and 64 receive antennas compared to the one today. We can shove a lot more data down that pipe and we can make 5G the preferred connectivity [method] over the next couple of years. 5G is a journey, not a destination. We're in the top 7 to 10 countries for 5G [already]."
Analyst Kester Mann from CCS Insight was also at the launch and said that: "Vodafone finally has its mojo back. At long last, there is an air of optimism, positivity and ambition to regain former glories in its emotive home market.
"[Its] move into unlimited data and its decision to price 5G the same as 4G indicate the emergence of a challenger mentality. This is in sharp contrast to its traditional premium-focussed approach. It could spell bad news for Three, which has built a strategy based on challenging industry norms."
While the red network isn't first, it's keen to avoid making the same mistake it did with 4G, where EE launched a year ahead of rivals and in doing so gained a significant competitive advantage.
Vodafone's head of networks Andrea Dona told Pocket-lint last month that the network was working hard to be the best at 5G having modernised 16,000 network sites so far. "We've got the latest electronics on our base stations... which gives us a really good footprint on which we can roll out 5G. By the end of the year we'll be more or less on par with our competitors.
"[That's] in contrast to what happened with 4G, where our competitors launched the year before. That's not going to happen this time."
One of Vodafone's key plays is with 5G roaming that will follow later in the Summer - but this will only be in selected countries that have both 5G and an agreement with Voda - Germany, Spain and Italy.
Vodafone's core network is powered by Ericsson, which features dynamic spectrum sharing so Vodafone can extend the scope of its network. Marielle Lindgren, UK & Ireland head of Ericsson said: "The UK has taken a leading role in launching 5G services early while much of Europe lags behind, slowed by local regulation.
"This early advantage will likely pay dividends, with superior connectivity forecasted to make a contribution of around £300bn to the UK economy by 2030 according to independent research commissioned by Ericsson."