When Is 5G Coming to the UK? (Updated for 2019)

UK 5G rollout began in 2019

The UK flag and flag of Europe on a pole

The United Kingdom is one of many countries getting 5G in the coming years. Depending on the provider, UK mobile subscribers can get 5G right now in major areas.

5G is a huge advancement over 4G when it comes to speed and latency, which is why it will improve so many areas of our lives, like vehicle communication, smart cities, mobile communication, VR and AR, etc.

5G in the UK

Several companies are launching 5G networks in the UK. Many cities will see 5G in 2019 but others will have to wait until 2020 or even longer.

EE

Europe's largest 4G provider, and the UK's biggest network operator, might soon become its biggest 5G provider. EE starting launching 5G service this year, beginning with the 1,500 busiest areas of 16 cities.

EE began rolling out 5G on May 22, 2019, in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Belfast, Manchester, and Edinburgh. 5G service in the UK officially switched on for those six cities on May 30, making EE the first company to launch 5G in the UK.

The other 10 cities getting 5G in 2019 through EE include:

  • Bristol
  • Coventry
  • Glasgow
  • Hull
  • Leeds
  • Leicester
  • Liverpool
  • Newcastle
  • Nottingham
  • Sheffield

Following those cities are these, slated to receive 5G in 2020:

  • Aberdeen
  • Cambridge
  • Derby
  • Gloucester
  • Peterborough
  • Plymouth
  • Portsmouth
  • Southampton
  • Worcester
  • Wolverhampton

The first 1,500 sites account for 15 percent of the UK’s entire population. However, EE’s 5G coverage will eventually reach much further because those first 5G sites cover just 10 percent of the places the company plans to roll out 5G.

The 5G plans from EE start from 10 GB for £54 /month ($68 USD) and extend up to 120 GB for £74 /month ($94 USD).

EE is launching a 5G home broadband service in June. The 5G Wi-Fi service can be used with the HTC 5G Hub for an upfront cost of £100 ($127 USD). Included is either 50 GB of data per month for £50 per month ($63 USD) or £75 per month ($95 USD) with 100 GB of data allowance every month.

O2

Another company launching 5G in the UK is O2. The UK's second-largest telecom provider roll out 5G in 20 locations throughout 2019, starting with these areas in October: Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Slough, and Leeds. O2's 5G network will reach 50 towns and cities by the summer of 2020.

In August 2018, O2 used LED lights to transfer data, citing the LiFi trial as an example of how they're future-proofing their network to pave the way for 5G in the UK.

O2 is also partnering with Nokia to run massive MIMO trials in Kings Cross and Marble Arch to not only provide better coverage for existing customers but also to test how the technology can be used in a 5G network to boost performance in urban areas.

The company currently offers the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and will eventually also provide the Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 5G and Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G.

Vodafone

More proof that UK is pushing hard towards 5G is the fact that Vodafone UK, the country's third largest mobile telecom, is also actively deploying the fifth-generation wireless network.

Vodafone 5G originally launched in a handful of locations on July 3, but have since expanded to include a total of 15 UK locations:

  • Birkenhead
  • Birmingham
  • Bristol
  • Bolton
  • Cardiff
  • Gatwick
  • Glasgow
  • Manchester
  • Lancaster
  • Liverpool
  • London
  • Newbury
  • Plymouth
  • Stoke-on-Trent
  • Wolverhampton

These cities will get 5G later in the year:

  • Blackpool
  • Bournemouth
  • Guildford
  • Portsmouth
  • Reading
  • Southampton
  • Warrington

In 2017, Vodafone UK tested 5G in car-to-car communications; they made UK's first 5G holographic phone call in 2018; in October 2018, switched on a 5G trial in Salford, Greater Manchester; in December of 2018, began installing antennae under manhole covers to pave the way for 5G; and in February 2019, connected Manchester Airport to their 5G network.

According to the company, 5G pricing is the same as using a 4G network. At least four 5G smartphones will be usable on Vodafone's 5G network, and a 5G home router (see available ones here).

Three UK

Three UK subscribers can look forward to 5G, too, most likely in the second half of 2019 via a 5G phone from Huawei.

After upgrading thousands of sites to LTE for faster speeds, the company announced in November 2018, their commitment to investing over £2 billion into 5G.

Three also plans to deliver 5G internet to the home via the HTC 5G Hub. The company demoed 5G home broadband in London using Huawei routers, and while Three expects users to get download speeds anywhere from 80 Mbps to 100 Mbps, the peak download speeds of these broadband routers on a 5G network could be as high as 2 Gbps.

80-100 Mbps is much faster than the average speed of a fixed wireless access (FWA) network that the average UK customer currently gets (around 45 Mbps).

Sky Mobile

Sky Mobile is launching 5G in the UK, too, starting with these locations in November: London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Leeds, and Slough. 20 more cities will get 5G from Sky Mobile before 2020.

5G Trials in the UK

Beyond the companies mentioned above that are actively testing and rolling out 5G networks, is the 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) at the University of Surrey in Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom.

5GIC is a testbed where researchers and partners can test and develop, in a real-world environment, any tech that could run on the next-gen wireless network. Their goal is to test 5G both inside and outside, in urban and rural locations where coverage might be difficult, and places where there isn't already a mobile network set up.

CityFibre and Arqiva announced in December 2018, details about the country's largest 5G small cell pilot trial in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. The companies are creating a 15 km high density fibre network which provides the bandwidth for mobile network operators to explore 5G. The aim is to “show the business and consumer benefits of this architecture and a successful rollout in Hammersmith & Fulham can be the prelude to a wider deployment in future.