Telecom providers all over the world are racing to upgrade into 5G wireless networks. 4G and LTE have been the prevalent networks for the last few years, but now telecom providers, armed with the correct wireless spectrum after accepted bids, are ready to start launching 5G worldwide. Rollouts already began in mid-2019, but official 5G launches are aimed for early 2020, just about worldwide.
Wireless carriers in the United Kingdom might have a slightly easier time rolling out their own 5G networks. This is simply because there are not only significantly fewer people to hook up, but, geographically, the networks don’t need to be nearly as wide or long as other countries like China and the United States as well.
Not sure when 5G is coming to the United Kingdom? Follow along below, and we’ll show you the country’s full rollout plans!
5G availability in the UK
Multiple telecom providers across the United Kingdom have already launched their 5G networks, but not over the entire UK just yet. Many are focused on rolling out their wireless networks throughout the rest of 2020, and into early 2020.
EE is one of Europe’s largest 4G operators, but the United Kingdom’s most extensive network operator. And it’s soon going to be its largest 5G provider. They started their quest for that this year, launching in 1,500 of the busiest areas in 16 major cities.
The network operator first launched in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Belfast, Manchester, and Edinburgh, lighting up 5G networks on May 30, 2019. Soon after, they added an additional 10 locations:
Slated launches for 2020 are:
Those right now are the planned cities, but EE will also focus on upgrading and expanding coverage in current cities as well.
The first 1,500 sites in the sixteen current cities account for 15 percent of the United Kingdom’s entire population. However, EE plans to expand its coverage much further, because current coverage only accounts for about 10% of its plans.
O2 still plans on having 5G coverage in twenty cities by the end of 2020. But right now, O2’s 5G service is only available in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Slough, and Leeds. They have plans to reach 50 other towns and cities by the summer of 2020.
Despite O2 being the UK’s second largest telecom provider, Vodafone has a leg up on them. Right now, you can use their fifth-gen network in fifteen different towns and cities:
Vodafone has plans to light up seven more cities with its fifth-gen network by the end of the year:
Vodafone will keep 5G pricing the same as 4G.
Three UK is currently only offering its fifth-gen network to households in London on a 12-month contract. Mobile 5G is still in the works, as well.
BT’s fifth generation network is available in twenty locations, including Cardiff, Belfast, Bristol, Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, Manchester, Liverpool, Hull, Sheffield, Newcastle, and more.
While BT has slightly more availability than Three UK, you will need to be using their pricier Halo plan to access its 5G network. And, of course, you’ll need to have a 5G-capable phone, too.
Sky Mobile is bringing 5G to the United Kingdom, starting in November 2019. They will first be launching in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Leeds, and Slough in November. But, they do have plans to bring 5G coverage to twenty more cities before the end of 2020.
As you can see, telecom providers in the United Kingdom are rolling out 5G networks reasonably quickly. If you’re on one of the UK’s largest carriers, you can likely access the fifth generation network already.
However, it’s worth keeping in mind that even though these carriers have launched 5G networks in a variety of large cities around the country, there are only specific “sites” or areas of those cities that have coverage. 5G has a much weaker signal, so telecom providers have to work harder to bring 5G to whole cities.
Coverage should grow exponentially in 2024, but it will take a couple of years to bring 5G nationwide, just because the nature of the spectrum is a little more challenging to work with as far as signal range and interference goes.