It’s undeniable that 5G is the next big thing in the mobile tech industry, which is why the world’s superpower countries are doing everything to get things going. Leading U.S. carriers like Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint have already laid their plans bear, with others having already started selling 5G-ready smartphones in the country.
Like in the U.S., the race towards 5G is on in the UK. Major carriers that include Vodafone, EE, Three, and O2 have already confirmed that 5G is on the way, with the first to offer 5G services – Vodafone – set to flip on the switch on July 3rd, 2019. But what about the rest?
Like any other new tech, getting your head around 5G details can be an uphill task. And in this post, we want to help you better understand what you are up against, including the current state of 5G coverage in the UK, supported 5G phones, the kind of speeds to expect as well as the extra charges involved, if any. Let’s get right to it.
- Verizon 5G: All you need to know
- AT&T 5G: All you need to know
- T-Mobile 5G: All you need to know
- Sprint 5G: All you need to know
UK cities with 5G coverage
One of the toughest tests 5G is facing worldwide and not just the UK is coverage. A lot is still got to be done in order to even match half of all the areas LTE covers. Nonetheless, several UK mobile operators have already revealed their 5G plans, namely Vodafone, EE, Three, and O2. 5G tests have been ongoing in the country for months, but the race to become the first to go mainstream with the service is still on.
EE is the leading mobile operator in the UK and naturally, the telco isn’t letting competitors take its place in the race to 5G. According to the carrier, 5G will be available in at least 16 cities by the end of 2019. The target is to serve up to 1,500 of the busiest areas within these cities, although more regions will be covered with time.
EE will flip on its 5G switch on 30th May 2019, becoming the first in the country to do so. Initially, 5G coverage will be available in busy parts of London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Belfast, Manchester, and Edinburgh. Later in the year, EE will roll out 5G in ten more cities as listed below:
EE has the widest LTE coverage in the country and will soon become the largest 5G service provider. However, the planned 2019 rollout will only account for about 10% of the areas it plans to bring 5G services.
In 2020, EE will spread its 5G wings to more UK cities namely Aberdeen, Cambridge, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Worcester, and Wolverhampton. Granted, it will take some time before many in the UK get a real taste of true 5G.
Given 5G is still an infant, there aren’t so many devices supported. In fact, the ongoing row between the U.S. government and Huawei has cut the number of 5G-ready phones available on EE by two. The carrier says the availability of the two – Huawei Mate 20 X 5G and the foldable Huawei Mate X – will be determined later since customers want the assurance that the devices will get lifetime support before committing to buy them.
EE won’t charge extra to access its 5G services on phones, which are now part of the revamped Pay Monthly plans. However, coming from an older plan to the new Pay Monthly plan may attract some extra charges, which is also true for 5G-enabled SIM-only plans being lined up. These SIM-only plans will include a range of great 5G data allowances starting at £32 per month for 20GB and go all the way to £52 per month for 100GB.
EE customers can already pre-order several 5G-ready gadgets on the new 5G Smart Plans starting from £54 per month for 10GB of 5G data and stretch all the way to £89 per month for 120GB of 5G data. There are a total of five 5G plans available to pick from and of course, prices may vary depending on the cost of the 5G device you pick.
For now, the only 5G phones EE users can pick from are Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, LG V50 ThinQ 5G, and Oppo Reno 5G. EE has also confirmed plans to bring 5GEE Wi-Fi using the HTC 5G Hub, where it will attract an upfront cost of £100 and a monthly payment of £50 for 50GB of data or £75 for 100GB of data. The carrier is also lining up 5GEE home broadband scheduled to arrive in June, although it didn’t reveal exact pricing details.
Vodafone UK, the country’s third largest mobile operator, became the first telco to connect the first 5G airport in February 2019. The carrier has been actively making inroads to pave way for 5G with some amazing stuff having started 5G trials back in 2018. To this end, it doesn’t surprise us that the telco is the front-runner to be among the first to go mainstream with 5G in the UK.
According to Vodafone, at least seven UK cities will get 5G services beginning July 3rd. Interestingly, the first 5G-ready device, Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 5G, will be available way earlier than this date (May 23, 2019).
The cities in question are Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, and London. However, the entirety of the said cities won’t be covered since the initial rollout will only cover busy places like airports, but coverage should improve with time. Vodafone says it will roll out 5G coverage in 12 more UK cities (below) by the end of 2019.
With the promise of speeds beyond 1Gbps that 5G carries, it should be good news for Vodafone UK users that the carrier says it will stick to the same 4G pricing for its 5G services. In addition to the aforementioned Mi MIX 3 5G, customers will be able to pick from at least four other 5G devices namely Samsung Galaxy S10 5G (pre-orders begin May 22nd, availability on June 7th), Huawei Mate X (pre-orders begin later in May 2019), Huawei Mate 20 X (summer availability), and a 5G home router.
Three UK is also rolling out 5G this 2019, probably in the second half of the year. The telco started the 5G journey back in 2018 by upgrading its 4G LTE network for better transitioning to 5G network when it arrives.
Three partnered with Huawei to try 5G in London and apparently, speeds of up to 2Gbps have been touted. However, Three is only promising speeds of between 80Mbps and 100Mbps “in densely populated urban areas and train stations” in the country, although full commercialization will happen later in 2019. Of course, these speeds should improve with time considering that 5G speeds can go all the way to 10Gbps.
The carrier is keeping its 5G cards close to its chest, so there isn’t much else out here. Still, anyone using Three or any affiliated carrier should rest assured that 5G is coming. One of the devices to expect is the HTC 5G Hub and of course, 5G phones.
The second largest telco in the UK, O2, seems to be trailing the rest in the race towards 5G. The carrier hasn’t said much about its 5G plans, but we do know it will turn on the 5G switch this 2019 in London, Belfast, Cardiff, and Edinburgh.
If you happen to live outside these four cities, O2 says 5G coverage will arrive in 2020. The carrier’s reasoning is that by then, plenty of 5G devices will be available to pick from, unlike today where only a handful of pricey options are available. And it pretty much makes sense.
Even so, O2 will have Samsung Galaxy S10 5G in stock later this year.
Related → 5G Android phones device list