A Guide to 5G UK 2021
The 5G network is the fifth generation of mobile network technology - following the 2G, 3G and 4G networks. With only a few mobile phone providers currently providing 5G signal, what can we expect from this advance in mobile technology? How do you access 5G? Read on for a comprehensive look at all things 5G in the UK, including benefits, locations and network operators.
When Is 5G Launching In The UK
5G has already launched on the EE, Vodafone and Three networks in May, July and August 2019 respectively. Vodafone and EE have multiple 5G locations already, whereas Three has only launched in London so far. The next cab off the rank will be O2 which launches its 5G network later this year.
Once O2 provide 5G coverage it will mean that all four mobile network infrastructures in the country will provide the most up to date generation of network technology. Eventually, we can expect to see 5G enabled phones and contracts offered through most mobile carriers as well.
The 5G Network: What Are The Benefits?
This new level of coverage promises faster data/upload speeds and better performance in crowded areas like busy metropolitan centers, festivals, sports games and concerts. If you’ve ever tried to upload a video at your favourite festival or send a whatsapp message amongst the crowds on New Year's Eve and struggled due to a saturated network, you’ll be glad that the 5G network promises to put an end to that.
It’s early doors for the 5G network, but initial reports on quality have already cited faster download speeds and seamless streaming on services like Netflix. It has been reported that 5G also removes the byproducts of congestion in busy areas, meaning that you can stream or download TV, movies and music with no delays on your packed out morning commute.
5G also promises to reduce latency - a measurement of the delay in speed at which one packet of mobile data gets delivered from one point to another. The higher the latency the slower the delivery time. EE claims that 5G “can reduce latency from 30-40ms today, to as low as 10ms in the future”.
Not only will 5G improve conditions for mobile uploads and downloads, but the reduction in latency will also make conditions more suitable for virtual or augmented reality, with technology like AR and VR headsets becoming more likely to break into the mainstream. Higher latency speeds often causes nausea due to lags in the virtual reality experience, and thus new speeds could make all the difference.
Over time, faster data connections could also mean advances in many other types of technology too. From lightning fast mobile broadband speeds to safer self driving vehicles, or even holographic assisted surgeries. Faster connections come with endless opportunities.
|Network||Maximum Download Speed||Download full HD film|
|5G||130Mbps - 240Mbps||Over a day|
|3G||8Mbps||Over 24 hours|
5G Phones: How To Get 5G
If you would like to partake in the 5G craze you’ll need a 5G enabled device. There are a handful of enabled smartphones already on the market. If the current array of phones available doesn’t appeal to you, don’t worry, most major manufacturers have 5G phones in the pipeline. If you have your heart set on a 5G iPhone however, you’ll have to be patient, as Apple isn’t launching its 5G device in 2019.
What can you do on the different generations of network devices?2G phones: Calling, SMS and MMS. 3G phones: All the capabilities of a 2G phone plus mobile internet and video calling. 4G phones: Same as 3G and 2G phones but with faster internet speeds, the capacity for gaming and HD streaming. 5G phones: Think the 4G network but with a faster internet connection, no buffering and better service in crowded areas.
Do you need to change your phone plan?
In short, yes. You will need to change your phone plan to get 5G and it may involve an increase in price. UK 5G plans will cost around £12 more than 4G pay monthly plans on average.
The EE network has launched its 5G smart plans as distinct from its 4G smart plans. For example, an unlimited EE 5G smart plan with the Samsung S10 5G will set you back £84 per month, on a 4G smart plan you would only be paying £64.
What will happen to the 4G network?The fourth and fifth generations will coexist together. If your phone drops out of 5G coverage (usually because you will have left the coverage area), you will then use 4G. In fact, when you connect to 5G you’ll actually be accessing parts of both networks simultaneously.
UK 5G Launches
5G cannot yet be enjoyed across the whole country, with the focus being centered on the UK’s major metropolitan centres however wide spread 5G coverage is not too far off, with the major networks rolling out their 5G locations during 2020 and 2021. Let's take a look at the major network infrastructures and their 5G plans.
Launch date: 30th of May 2019
EE was the first network to launch 5G in the UK and it was also the first to launch the UK 4G network back in 2012. Initially, it rolled out 5G coverage in 6 cities, promising to extend it to 10 more cities later in 2019. The EE 5G network boasts download speeds of 1Gbps which is much faster than the 4G coverage currently on offer. The provider already has the fastest 4G network at this stage, so we’re excited to compare its 5G speeds to that of other networks once they have launched.
If you’re ready and raring to join EE 5G, you’ll need a compatible device. EE has five different 5G smartphones to choose from that can be used to access the network. You can also preorder yet-to-be-released 5G phones. The current 5G phones on offer through the provider are:
- Oppo Reno 5G
- Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
- LG V50 ThinQ 5G
- OnePlus 7 Pro 5G
- Huawei Mate 20 X 5G
The current and future 5G areas for each mobile operator are as follows:
|Current 5G EE cities||Late 2019 5G EE cities||2020 EE 5G cities|
|London, Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham||Bristol, Coventry, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield||Aberdeen, Cambridge, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Wolverhampton, Worcester|
Launch date: 3rd of July 2019
Vodafone currently has the most active 5G locations on offer, with 15 different cities now enjoying 5G coverage. Vodafone offers three different 5G compatible devices and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G is now available for preorder. The current 5G phones on offer from Vodafone are:
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 35G
- Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
- Huawei Mate 20 X 5G
Vodafone now offers 5G combined mobile and broadband bundles, so if superfast internet speeds are your thing it might be worth considering combining your mobile and broadband deal.
Much like EE, Vodafone’s launch cities are among the major cosmopolitan hotspots across the UK.
|Current 5G Vodafone cities||Late 2019 Vodafone 5G cities|
|Birkenhead, Birmingham, Bolton, Bristol, Cardiff, Gatwick, Glasgow, Lancaster, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newbury, Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent and Wolverhampton.||Blackpool, Bournemouth, Guildford, Portsmouth, Reading, Southampton and Warrington.|
Three currently only has 5G signal in London but it will have at least four 5G mobile devices on offer by the end of 2019 and actually vows to offer 5G plans at no extra cost compared to its 4G plans. The 5G phones on offer are; Huawei Mate 20 X 5G, Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G, Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G.
Three intends to provide 5G coverage to 80% of its users in the next three years. We can expect the first Three mobile 5G locations to be as follows:
|Three 5G locations|
|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.|
If you’re an O2 customer and you’re waiting to see when you can join the 5G network with your mobile carrier, don’t fret, O2 will also be adding 5G service at the end of 2019.
O2 has announced that it will join the ranks of the other network provides in October 2019 - completing the puzzle as the last of the mobile network providers to bring 5G to the people. It will have three different 5G mobile phones on offer at the time of its launch: Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G and the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G.
The provider will offer a similar range of 5G locations to that of its rival networks, starting with 6 locations and then extending to 14 additional locations. The 5G locations launching in 2019 are as follows:
|O2 5G locations at launch||O2 locations late 2019||Future O2 locations|
|Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Slough||Blackpool, Bournemouth, Bristol, Coventry, Derby, Eton, Guildford, Leicester, Lisburn, Norwich, Nottingham, Reading, Stoke, Windsor||Aberdeen, Bradford, Brighton, Birkenhead, Birmingham, Cambridge, Glasgow, Hove, Kingston, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newbury, Newcastle, Northampton, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Southampton, Sunderland, Warrington, Wolverhampton.|
Is 5G for me?
As with most personal devices, the suitability of a 5G phone really depends on your personal preferences and needs. Joining 5G is more expensive than 4G at this stage, you would either need to buy a new device outright or sign up to a more expensive mobile phone contract to pay it off.
If you happen to be in a 5G area, have the funds to invest in a new phone, or are already looking at getting a new high quality device, then you may as well go for the 5G option. The majority of the population will still be using 4G for now, but over time this will shift, and there is no harm in getting ahead of the pack.
It’s undoubtedly true that this new generation of mobile network technology offers faster speeds and reduced delays, and for some, that will be very exciting indeed. Certain businesses too will improve their services through these innovations, and it is a likely eventuality that 5G will become a must have in business.
When it comes to which Telecom company to trust for network performance, the jury is still out. It is still early days for the 5G network. Competition is low as not all operators have launched at the moment, and as such, we will reserve our full network comparison analysis until there is more data to draw from.