EE To Launch 5G Network At Month End

EE will become the first UK operator to launch a 5G network in the UK in six UK cities at the end of this month.

EE announced that the network would launch on Thursday 30 May in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast.

This means that EE will beat Vodafone to the punch, after the Newbury-based operator revealed it would launch its own 5G network on 3 July in seven UK cities (Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and London).

5G network

Alongside the launch of the 5G network in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester, the BT-owned operator is also offering new EE 5G Smart SIM only and handset plans, to coincide with today’s arrival of the first 5G smartphones from Samsung and OnePlus.

EE is also announcing a 5GEE Wi-Fi and 5GEE home broadband package.

EE said that its 5G network will “rapidly” expand beyond the six launch cities, as more than 100 new 5G sites are being added per month.

This should expand the 5G network to places such as Bristol, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Liverpool, Hull, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow.

More cities will follow in 2020, including Aberdeen, Cambridge, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Worcester and Wolverhampton.

“This is the start of the UK’s 5G journey and great news for our customers that want and need the best connections,” said Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer division. “We’ve started with 5G in some of the busiest parts of the UK.”

“We’re adding 5G to the UK’s number one 4G network to increase reliability, increase speeds, and keep our customers connected where they need it most,” said Allera. “5G will create new experiences with augmented reality, make our customers’ lives easier, and help launch entirely new businesses that we haven’t even imagined. We’re upgrading more than 100 sites to 5G every month from today to connect more places to what 5G can enable.

1Gbps speed?

EE explained that it had chosen its 5G launch sites as they were the “busiest parts of the UK, where 5G can really make a difference by providing a more reliable data connection to businesses and consumers.”

The operator predicted that 5G could be expected to deliver an increase in speeds of around 100-150Mbps even in the busiest areas.

And it said that some customers would break the one gigabit-per-second milestone on their 5G smartphones.

It contrasted this to the 50Mbps fastest possible speed when EE launched its 4G network in 2012.

Customers will essentially connect to both 4G and 5G at the same time so they can obtain “the best possible experience, even in the most crowded areas.”

And EE also said it continues to expand 4G coverage into rural areas, and adding more capacity to 4G sites by turning 3G signal into 4G.

5G packages

EE said that this week is has begun selling 5G handsets, and it has also launched a new range of 5G plans.

Plans start from 10GB (£54 per month) and extend up to 120GB (£74 per month).

Alongside the smartphone plans, EE is also rolling out the UK’s first 5G SIM only plans, with 5G data allowances starting at 20GB per month (£32 per month) and rising to 100GB (£52 per month).

But it doesn’t stop there. EE is also launching the UK’s first 5G home broadband, which it claims will be faster than superfast fibre.

This 5GEE home broadband will launch in June, and prices will be revealed closer to the launch.

And for those not anchored to a fixed location such as a house, EE is launching 5GEE Wi-Fi with the HTC 5G Hub. This will be available with an upfront cost of £100 and with 50GB of data per month for £50 per month, or for £75 per month with 100GB of data per month.

There are also 5G plans for small and medium businesses.

Worldwide launches

It should be remembered that the UK is not the first to launch 5G networks.

In April SK Telecom launched what it claimed was the world’s first commercial 5G network, spanning 85 cities.

But this claim was immediately disputed American carrier AT&T, which said it had rolled out a “commercial and standards-based” 5G network (across 12 cities) in December last year.

Verizon in the US meanwhile launched its 5G network in two cities on 11 April.

Last month Vodafone installed the first 5G network in a UK train station (Birmingham New Street) and it invited commuters and travellers to test superfast speeds.

Countries like France and Germany are only planning to launch 5G networks in 2020.

Quiz: The past, present and future of 4G networks

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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