5G in the UK is finally here and while it8217;s still in its infancy, you8217;re only going to see and hear about it more as new networks join the fray, and the nation8217;s 5G infrastructure improves.
Here, you can find out about the state of 5G in the UK right now, where you8217;ll find the strongest signal, the best speeds and which carriers offer, or are planning on offering, 5G plans worth considering.
If you8217;re in need of a refresher, in a nutshell, 5G is the latest generation of mobile network technology, promising significantly faster data speeds, better reliability and lower response times than its predecessors by a significant margin.
Companies have already pushed the benefits of 5G beyond faster mobile browsing and streaming. 5G will allow for truly wireless broadband, better broadcasting technology, better automation and autonomy across everything from manufacturing to automotive, plus support for a greater density of connected devices, support for new classes of connected devices and a lot more.
Right now, EE is your only real choice as it8217;s the only carrier able to offer 5G in the UK. It officially launched its 5G service on May 30, 2019 across six major UK cities but expansion is set to be fast and extensive. It also offers the largest choice of 5G phones right now.
Vodafone is hot on EE8217;s heels, promising that its 5G service will go live on July 3 in the UK. It doesn8217;t have as extensive a device portfolio as its leading rival but it is launching in more cities than EE initially did – seven in total.
Promising the 8216;fastest8217; 5G in the UK, Three has committed to an August launch date for its 5G service. However, unlike its competitors, it won8217;t have any phones available until much later in the year. The carrier has stated that handsets will only become available once its network rollout hits 25 cities; a milestone it8217;s aiming to hit before the end of 2019.
O2 has confirmed that it8217;ll be launching its 5G service in 2019, although, when that is exactly is a little ambiguous. The company has mentioned a summer release window, which places the launch date anytime between June 21 and September 23, this year.
Most smaller carriers haven8217;t made any real statements about when they might be adopting 5G. Most MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators), like Virgin Mobile, Giffgaff and Tesco Mobile are all at the mercy of the country8217;s biggest carriers (i.e. EE and Vodafone), as they can only bring 5G to their customers when the networks that they piggyback off of, support it.
Despite no official news, BT Mobile customers might be at the head of the pack, purely because BT owns EE, which already has a horse in the race for 5G dominance.
Similarly to the rollout of 4G, at launch, 5G is only available in very specific areas. The major carriers all seem to be focusing on the nation8217;s biggest cities and potential hotspots within those cities. Despite saying that a carrier8217;s 5G network is now active in 8216;London8217;, for example, doesn8217;t mean you8217;ll be able to use 5G everywhere in that city, at least not yet.
EE8217;s 5G network is currently available across six major UK cities; London, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Belfast, Manchester and Cardiff. Plans to bring connectivity to ten further sites (Bristol, Coventry, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield) are in place to take effect before the end of 2019.
As already mentioned, Vodafone will be launching its 5G network across seven UK cities: Glasgow, London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Cardiff and Bristol. With Birkenhead, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Guildford, Newbury, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Reading, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Warrington and Wolverhampton also benefitting later this year.
The network will then extend coverage to a further 24 cities before the end of 2019: Bolton, Birmingham, Bristol, Bradford, Reading, Liverpool, Rotherham, Glasgow, Slough, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Leeds, Brighton, Manchester, Coventry, Cardiff, Derby, Hull, Middlesbrough, Leicester, Milton Keynes, Wolverhampton, Sunderland and Nottingham.
One of the big selling points for most mobile users is going to be the speed and latency improvements 5G promises.
Once networks8217; 5G infrastructure is fully implemented and matured, many are hoping for theoretical 10Gbps speeds, which equates to a 100-fold increase over 4G and a 30-fold increase over LTE-A 4G.
Based on EE8217;s infrastructure you8217;ll initially be able to pull in theoretical speeds of up to 1Gbps. In the country8217;s capital, one of the main things our tests revealed was that, although usable 5G signal is concentrated, it proves impressively consistent when moving around; more than you might expect at this early stage.
Claiming to be the 8216;fastest8217; before you8217;ve even launched your 5G network is a bold play on Three8217;s part. The network8217;s confidence comes from the amount of spectrum it holds, which right now is significantly more than its competitors.
O2 hasn8217;t yet quoted any 5G speeds, however, a tactile infrastructure partnership with Vodafone should help speed up the rollout of its network and potentially grant O2 users similar 5G speeds to Vodafone customers.
- Related: 48 hours with the UK8217;s first 5G phone