Sky Mobile launches 5G in 21 UK towns and cities

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5g connection cityscape

Sky Mobile has flicked the switch on its 5G service and eager early adopters can now sign up for the emerging technology in 20 towns and cities across the UK. Selectra looks at the latest 5G provider.

Where has Sky Mobile launched 5G?

If you’re itching to try 5G, Sky Mobile has joined mobile network operators EE, Vodafone, O2 and BT in offering the next generation service. The only major network without a nation-wide 5G rollout for mobiles is Three, but they’re working on it.

Both new and existing customers with compatible handsets can switch to the super-high speed protocol.

The initial 20 cities and towns across the UK, including national capitals London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff will be joined by 30 more locations by the Summer.

Sky Mobile has now rolled out 5G access in the following places:

  • London
  • Edinburgh
  • Cardiff
  • Belfast
  • Leeds
  • Slough
  • Leicester
  • Lisburn
  • Manchester
  • Birmingham
  • Glasgow
  • Liverpool
  • Newcastle
  • Bradford
  • Sheffield
  • Coventry
  • Nottingham
  • Norwich
  • Bristol
  • Derby
  • Stoke

You can check if you’re in the right place by entering your postcode here on Sky’s website.

However, even if you’re officially in a 5G coverage area, your mileage may vary.

Customers of all networks offering the new system have found that their ability to connect to a 5G signal can be very hit and miss. Many of the transmitters in use are low-powered and provide fairly limited coverage and the 5G signal can be lost completely in under a third of a mile.

On top of this, the postcode checker websites, like the Sky Mobile one we’ve linked above are not particularly reliable according to the Local Government Association.

Because they use computer modelling to predict network coverage rather than actual real-world measurements, millions of UK mobile phone users may not be getting the coverage promised by the network operators.

In fact, 34% of the UK lacks 4G coverage from all four networks with hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses missing out on technology first launched in the UK in 2012. A further 8% of the country is currently beyond the reach of a mobile signal. The government has agreed a £1bn deal with the industry to bring 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by 2025.

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Is Sky Mobile a good choice for 5G?

As a virtual network operator, Sky Mobile runs its service by piggybacking on O2’s infrastructure rather than building and maintaining its own.

While O2 and Sky Mobile have 21 5G locations, O2 competitor, Vodafone currently has 40 in the UK and EE plan to have 70 locations by the end of March.

To get 5G you need to have a handset that comes with the necessary hardware. If you have a 4G or 3G phone on contract from Sky Mobile, you can upgrade to a new 5G phone without having to wait until the end of your contract with the Swap scheme.

Prices for Sky Mobile 5G ready phones range from £22 a month for the Samsung Galaxy A90 5G to £42 a month for Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.

If you’re a Sky Mobile customer and you’re on Sky’s loyalty scheme, Sky VIP, you can unlock the full capability of your 5G-enabled handset for free.

If you don’t feel like signing up to Sky VIP, a 5G trial add-on will be free for one month. After that access to the service will cost you an additional £5 a month.

The available data plans on Sky Mobile don’t really allow customers to take full advantage of the system’s potential.

Sky Mobile offers a bargain basement tariff of £6 a month which gives you a paltry 3GB of data a month. The largest data package is £25 for 25GB.

While all tariffs also give unlimited calls and texts, the offer is no match for the Vodafone unlimited 5G £30 tariff.

One advantage Sky Mobile has is the ability to stream unlimited sports, movies and TV shows through Sky’s apps at 5G speeds without using any of your data allowance, but this is only available if you’re also paying for a Sky TV package.

So what is 5G and why would you want it?

The 5G label is a short way of describing “fifth generation” mobile network technology.

From the point of view of the customer the main thing is that it promises to be faster, much, much faster.

Hyper-speed downloads of between 100 megabits per second (Mbps) and one gigabit per second (Gbps) will become commonplace once 5G is fully rolled-out. Further down the line speeds of 10GBPS might not be out of the question.

This means smoothly streaming in ultra-high resolution 4k will be a snap and a full-length HD movie could be downloaded to your phone in a matter of seconds. A one hour 1080p Youtube video could come in at around 1GB in size.

Other benefits include crystal-clear video calling and the ability to back up gigabytes of data to the cloud if that’s your thing.

That said, download speeds on current 5G signals can come and go, with 4G speeds likely to be the more common experience in the short term.

The super-low latency of 5G will be attractive to gamers looking to reduce frustrating lag and also more pleasant for the casual user.

When you click on a link or send a message, latency is that short time you have to wait before anything happens.

The average latency of 4G is about 40ms, for fixed-line home broadband the latency is usually between 10 and 20ms. It’s not long at all, but we’re an impatient bunch and the potential 4ms latency of 5G will feel almost real-time.

That’s not yet the case unfortunately, with latency speeds on UK 5G networks are currently between 21 and 26ms.

Is it time to switch to 5G?

Make no mistake about it, 5G is going to have a transformative effect on your daily life.

The technology will power what’s called the “Internet of Things” or IOT.

This is a future where almost any device, from your toothbrush to your washing machine will be hooked up to the net, monitoring your use and uploading data to the manufacturer and other organizations.

One day, among other things 5G will likely do away with broadband for many people, connect driverless cars and bring telemedicine into our homes.

However, right here, right now, there’s no great reason to invest in a 5G phone if you don’t already have one.

With the relatively poor coverage, even in London, and the variable speeds the new system is still just that bit too new.

As networks invest in more transmitters with more powerful output the case for switching to 5G will get stronger. The real take up might not happen until after Apple launches its own 5G handset towards the end of 2020.

Whether you’re a Sky Mobile customer or not, there are plenty of tariffs out there which could be better for your pocket and your needs. Click here to read Selectra’s guide on how to switch.

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