Vodafone UK Demo Tested 5G SA Network Slicing at Glastonbury

Mobile operator Vodafone UK conducted another trial of Network Slicing technology on their latest 5G Standalone (SA) powered mobile broadband network at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, which despite heavy network load was able to dedicate a “slice” of capacity to help drink vendors speed up card transactions.

Most existing 5G networks in the UK still have some dependencies on 4G, which slow them down and are known as Non-Standalone (NSA). By comparison, 5G Standalone (5GSA) reflects a pure end-to-end 5G network that can also deliver improvements such as ultra-low latency times (fast), better mobile broadband upload speeds, network slicing capabilities, better support for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, increased reliability and security.

NOTE: Network slicing allows for multiple virtual network slices across the same physical network. Each slice is isolated from other network traffic to give dedicated performance, with the features of the slice tailored to the use case requirements.

Vodafone has already conducted a number of Network Slicing trials on their newest 5GSA network and the Glastonbury Festival, with its high data usage, represented another opportunity. In fact, the operator reveals that festival-goers consumed over 225 TeraBytes (TB) of data during the event (up 33.14% on 2023), which put a huge load on their Cells on Wheels (COWs) masts and network setup (particularly during Coldplay’s headline performance when over 258GB of data was uploaded).

Building a telecommunications network for over 200,000 people in a small area is naturally a complex task at the best of times, particularly when you have to both cater for visitors and keep on-site businesses connected to vital services at the same time. As such, the operator also used the festival to test whether dedicating a portion (slice) of the network to keep EBC payment machines connected would work (EBC managed 10 on-site bars).

Ryan Kingsley, Stock Manager at EBC, said:

“Running some of the busiest bars at Glastonbury, it is so crucial that we have a stable data connection with the capacity to operate our tills. The Vodafone slice ensured that the three bars supported in the demonstration had that stable data connection and helped us serve our customers faster than ever before!”

The slice was optimised to support the maximum number of concurrent transactions during peak busy periods and was protected from the risk of wider network congestion at the event. The result was that payment machines were not impacted by general data usage, meaning customers were served faster and didn’t need to spend as long in a queue.

Real-time connectivity is crucial to authorising card payments. Without real-time authentication of payments, it is estimated that 4% of revenues can be lost to fraudulent transactions.

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