Vodafone UK report touts benefits of 5G SA for Small Biz; cover for proposed merger with Three UK?

new Vodafone report claims that small businesses in the UK could be missing out on up to £8.6 billion (US $10.8 billion) a year in productivity savings due to the very slow rollout of 5G standalone (5G SA)  [1.].  The report states:

• Based on current progress rates, and without further action, by 2030 the UK would rank 5th on this index, scoring lower that Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands. The UK would lose its position as one of the foremost places in Europe to start a new business.

• But an accelerated rollout of standalone 5G (5GSA) would allow the UK to jump three places from its current position by 2030, becoming the second-best place in Europe for business to secure the connectivity and digital competitiveness needed to grow.

Note 1.  Vodafone defines 5G SA as follows:

Standalone 5G (5G SA) refers to the rollout of 5G connectivity on an entirely new network, as opposed to building upon the existing 4G network. Whilst this enables the network to enjoy some of the benefits of superfast connectivity, 5G SA is not subject to the limitations of the 4G networks, and is therefore able to support high-density deployments, such as smart sensors and real time data sharing.


The report cites agriculture as an example, where the use of 5G SA for activities such as real-time data monitoring and AI-based forecasting could help those laboring in the industry save on average at least 6% of their working hours.

In particular, the report’s sidebar on Agriculture states:

With agricultural activities tending to be much more spread out than other SME business operations, this means that having a reliable 5G-supported network is especially needed to reap the productivity rewards across new and exciting technological frontiers:

• Real-time data monitoring: Technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and real-time data sensors on a standalone 5G network can capture the status of virtually everything that farmers typically spend the most time on assessing: the weather, soil quality, and crop health.

By seeing data in real time, farmers can access the information they need and use technology to support decision-making for when to water crops or use pesticides – greatly reducing working hours and costs.

• AI decision-making and forecasting: With the wealth of uninterrupted data that can be collected on a standalone 5G network by smart technology, this enhances the information that AI can use to make more informed, faster recommendations to farmers than manually. AI programs can forecast things such as future crop health and optimised farming schedules to maximise crop yields.

• Precision machinery: New machine technology can also use data to determine more precise amounts of resources to use in the field for crop health, reducing wastage and saving time than if completed manually. Pioneering unmanned machinery, including for weeding and seeding, can save farmers more hours in the field to focus on other areas of the agricultural business.

Through a meta-analysis of surveys on how the 296,000 workers employed by agriculture SMEs typically spend their working times, we expect that they can save on average at least 6% of their working hours – or over 3.1 working weeks per worker – through a national standalone 5G network and the technologies it enables. This equates to all these workers collectively saving over 37.7 million working hours per year – delivering productivity savings of £112 million per year.


A possible motivator of this report is Vodafone’s desire to complete its proposed merger with the UK’s Three, a deal that would allow Vodafone to rollout a nationwide 5G SA network.  The report contends that a merger with Three would lift Vodafone from fifth to second place in a “European Index” that compares and ranks the competitiveness of each country’s 5G offerings for small businesses across 17 countries.

During a keynote at MWC Barcelona 2024, Vodafone Group CEO Margherita Della Valle commented that the proposed merger with Three will drive 5G “to all the areas that need it so badly.” She added “It will have a very positive impact on the U.K. economy. And we’ve also said it very clearly, we’re not going to change our pricing policies as a consequence.”

Vodafone said that it has committed to invest £11 billion ($13.9 billion) in 5G SA to cover 99% of the UK population by 2034 — should the merger with Three be approved by the regulators.






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