By John McCann
5G in the UK is here! Almost. Yes. Sort of. Depending on your network, location and choice of device.
The UK’s 5G networks are not launching at the same time, and the fifth generation of network isn’t currently available nationwide, plus you’ll need a smartphone which supports 5G to take advantage of the new, super-speedy connectivity.
Update: O2 has finally revealed details on its 5G plans, including a release date.
Thankfully we’ve got all the information you need to ensure a smooth transition onto the 5G superhighway. So grab your phone, buckle up and prepare to merge into the fast lane.
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I want 5G right now
If you’re not interested in the nitty gritty and already have your heart set on a 5G phone and plan, we’ve collected the best 5G deals in the UK for you.
EE was the first network to launch 5G in the UK on May 30, 2019, and it’s since been joined by Vodafone, which turned on its service on July 3. For now, these are your only two options for 5G in the UK.
We’re still waiting for Three and O2 to roll out their 5G offerings, but both will have their networks live before the end of the year. Meanwhile, BT (which will use EE’s network) has confirmed it will launch 5G this autumn.
You will need a new 5G phone and 5G contract to take advantage of it, and live in one of the six cities that have the connection to make use of the fifth generation of network.
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5G on EE
Image Credit: EE
- EE 5G launch date: May 30, 2019
- EE 5G towns and cities: 6 (16 by end of year)
- EE 5G phones: 4
EE 5G launch date
EE was the first to launch its 5G network, with it landing in the UK on May 30, 2019 – beating the rest of the pack to the punch, as it did with 4G.
EE 5G locations
Initially you can get EE 5G in six cities in the UK, with London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester the lucky recipients, but the network has committed to rolling out 5G to 10 more cities before the end of the year.
EE customers can expect 5G to hit the following areas in 2019: Bristol, Coventry, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.
However, at launch EE’s 5G coverage does not reach all areas of every city. We’ve tested it out in London, and found that it’s not consistent. In areas where 5G is available though, we’re consistently getting speeds of around 200Mbps (versus around 15-20Mbps on 4G devices).
EE 5G devices
EE has four 5G smartphones for you to choose. The cheapest is the Oppo Reno 5G, the priciest are the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and LG V50 ThinQ 5G, while the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G sits in the middle of the group.
Previously, EE had confirmed that it would also stock the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G, however it has since been temporarily pulled from the line-up due to the recent Huawei ban.
- EE’s 5G phones
EE 5G speeds
We got our hands on the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G on launch day and have been testing out the speed of EE’s shiny new network.
While top speeds of way over 1Gbps are quoted, in reality we’ve seen speeds more consistently around the 200-400Mbps threshold – still comfortably faster than average 4G speeds.
The fastest 5G speed we’ve managed to achieve in London is 550Mbps, and in that location we downloaded an hour long, 1GB, high quality video from Amazon Prime in 43 seconds.
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EE 5G cost
So how much is EE asking for the first taste of 5G in the UK?
5G on Vodafone
Image Credit: Vodafone
- Vodafone 5G launch date: July 3, 2019
- Vodafone 5G town and cities: 15 (22 by end of year)
- Vodafone 5G phones: 2
Vodafone 5G launch date
Vodafone is the second carrier to launch its 5G network in the UK, which went live on July 3, 2019.
Vodafone 5G locations
Vodafone 5G is now live in 15 locations, which includes the 7 launch cites of London, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Cardiff and Bristol, which have now been joined by another eight in Birkenhead, Bolton, Gatwick, Lancaster, Newbury, Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent and Wolverhampton.
It’s not done there though, as Vodafone has also promised to bring 5G to a further seven locations before the year is out. The lucky locations are: Blackpool, Bournemouth, Guildford, Portsmouth, Reading, Southampton and Warrington.
Vodafone 5G devices
So far, Vodafone has two 5G smartphones on offer, with the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G and Samsung Galaxy S10 5G both available to buy now.
- Vodafone’s 5G phones
Vodafone 5G cost
So how much is Vodafone asking for its 5G services?
5G on Three UK
Image Credit: Three UK
- Three 5G launch date: August 2019 (broadband only)
- Three 5G launch cities: 25
- Three 5G launch devices: ??
Three UK 5G launch date
Three has confirmed it will launch its 5G network in 2019, with its 5G home broadband offering going on sale first in London, in August, and its mobile 5G proposition arriving later in the year.
Three UK 5G locations
Three says it will launch 5G in 25 towns and cities around the UK by the end of year.
The locations are: London, Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Reading, Rotherham, Sheffield, Slough, Sunderland and Wolverhampton.
It also claims that it aims to provide 5G coverage to 80% of its network traffic in three years.
Three UK 5G devices
Three is another network who has said previously it will sell the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G, but with the recent Huawei ban this may change.
A Three spokesperson told TechRadar: “We are currently considering what all the implications are. We will evaluate what impact this has on the customer, both short and long term, and act accordingly.”
We’ll update this page as soon as we know more.
Three UK 5G cost
With no firm 5G launch date or device confirmation, we’ll have to wait and see what prices Three will set. We’ll update this page as soon as we know more.
Three will announce its 5G handset range and pricing in July.
5G on O2
Image Credit: O2
- O2 5G launch date: October 2019
- O2 5G launch cities: 6
- O2 5G launch devices: 2
O2 5G launch date
All O2 has confirmed so far is that it will launch its 5G network in October 2019.
O2 5G locations
O2 has confirmed its 5G network will initially go live in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Leeds and Slough, and the carrier has said it plans to have 5G live in 20 cities and towns (including Bristol, Norwich and Reading) before the end of the 2019.
It also said it plans to spread its 5G network to 50 locations by summer 2020, which would include Milton Keynes, Birmingham and Brighton.
However, it’s worth noting that the first areas in cities O2 will bring 5G will be social hubs like sports stadiums, shopping malls, transport hubs like train stations, and music venues, and it suggested that it could be several years before there’s dense residential penetration.
O2 5G devices
We know O2 will offer the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G.
Previously, O2 had said it would stock the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G, but it now appears that won’t be the case, at least initially at launch anyway.
O2 5G cost
We’ll have to wait and see what prices O2 will set for its 5G network. We’ll update this page as soon as we know more.
5G on BT
BT 5G launch date
BT has confirmed that it will launch its 5G offering this autumn, but there’s no exact date just yet.
BT 5G locations
BT 5G will be using EE’s network, so it will be available where EE’s 5G coverage is. It means you’re likely to get coverage in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester at the very least, from launch.
BT 5G devices
BT hasn’t announced which 5G phones it will be ranging.
BT 5G cost
BT hasn’t announced how much its 5G plans will cost.
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