Glasgow will next month become one of seven UK cities taking part in a trial by Vodafone to test 5G technology enabling applications as diverse as remote robotic surgery, autonomous vehicles, and 4K gaming on the move. The company announced a series of investments today as it conducted the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G.

The call from Vodafone’s Manchester office featured England and Manchester City Women’s Football Captain, Steph Houghton. Using 5G, Steph appeared as a live 3D hologram on stage in front of an audience at Vodafone’s UK headquarters in Newbury.

Steph’s hologram gave footballing tips to 11-year-old Manchester City and Lionesses fan, Iris, in Newbury. Vodaphone said the exchange demonstrated the possibilities that new technology can bring to sport, including remote coaching and training, as well as the opportunity to bring sports fans closer to their idols.

The demonstration followed the announcement in June that seven cities will become Vodafone 5G trial areas from next month. The carrier said today that Cornwall and the Lake District will receive 5G during 2019, and that it will have 1,000 5G sites by 2020.

“With its track-record as a British communications and technology pioneer, Vodafone is committed to helping the UK advance as a digital leader,” the company said in a statement. “We are already driving the UK’s transition to a full-fibre future through our partnership with CityFibre.  In addition to today’s holographic call, Vodafone is announcing a package of initiatives to drive innovation and growth across the UK.”

They include boosting digital entrepreneurship with:

  • A new technology centre and digital incubator in Manchester, in collaboration with the Mayor of Greater Manchester and MediaCityUK.
  • Vodafone Techstarter, an award for innovative technology with social purpose. Techstarter offers a £300,000 fund through a partnership with the Vodafone Foundation and Social Tech Trust, the UK’s leading supporter of socially-motivated tech ventures.
  • Bright Sparks, a mentorship programme for digital start-ups in partnership with Oxford University Innovation.

Expanding the UK’s digital talent base:

  • Code Ready, a scheme offering frontline employees in our retail stores and contact centres the opportunity to learn to code and acquire the digital skills they need for the future.
  • Vodafone Digital Degree, a programme that combines a computer science degree from the University of Birmingham with a tech apprenticeship at Vodafone.

Offering new business solutions:

  • The UK’s first self-optimising tariff which automatically moves business customers to the most cost-effective tariff for them.
  • The Gigacube, a mobile WiFi device delivering instant, superfast connectivity for up to 20 users, ideal for anyone wanting to set up a satellite office, pop-up shop or restaurant.
  • Software Defined Networking, giving customers control over their network.
  • Dedicated Ethernet, offering the fastest optical fibre links on the market.
  • Narrowband IoT to connect thousands of smart devices in hard to reach areas.

Introducing a converged mobile and fixed-line network:

  • £700 million expenditure this year on its network in addition to the multi-billion pound investment over the last few years.
  • the company now runs home broadband, mobile, IoT and business services over a single all-fibre converged network across the UK, improving service and cutting energy costs.

The company’s UK chief executive Nick Jeffery said: “Vodafone has a history of firsts in UK telecoms – we made the nation’s first mobile phone call, sent the first text, and now we’ve conducted the UK’s first holographic call using 5G. We also lead the industry in Internet of Things (IoT) technology, with the world’s largest dedicated global IoT network.

“The initiatives we’ve launched today are designed to ensure that everyone can benefit from the digital technologies transforming how we live and work. From our customers and employees, to university students, digital entrepreneurs and businesses, we want to help people across the UK get ready for a digital future.”