EE launching UK 5G network on May 30

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EE, BT’s mobile operator, has confirmed that on May 30th, it will switch on its 5G network in six UK cities: London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast.

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

“Our partnerships with Google [for a Startups Campus project] and Niantic [for a Harry Potter AR game] are just the start of our commitment to work with the most innovative and exciting companies in the world to ensure that EE customers are the first to benefit from the exciting new experiences that 5G will bring,” Allera concluded.

The BT Sport app in HDR will be exclusive to 5G plans for EE customers and has a retail value of £15 (€17) a month. The service is marketed as a ‘swappable’ service that EE customers can exchange for other services within their Smart plans.EE is also offering a video data pass worth £8.99 whereby users can stream video services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BT Sport, TV Player and MTV Play without using their data.

EE says it is launching 5G in the busiest parts of the UK, where 5G can really make a difference by providing a more reliable data connection to businesses and consumers. EE expects customers to experience an increase in speeds of around 100-150Mbps even in the busiest areas. Some customers will break the one gigabit-per-second milestone on their 5G smartphones. The fastest speed possible when EE launched 4G in 2012 was just 50Mbps.

In addition to the six launch cities, in 2019 EE will also be introducing 5G across the busiest parts of Bristol, Coventry, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. And in 2020, even more towns and cities will get 5G sites including: Aberdeen, Cambridge, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Worcester and Wolverhampton.

5G is built on top of EE’s award winning 4G network – customers will connect to both 4G and 5G at the same time to get the best possible experience, even in the most crowded areas.

As well as upgrading more than 100 sites to 5G every month, EE is expanding 4G coverage into rural areas, and adding more capacity to 4G sites by turning 3G signal into 4G to enable more spectrum for a better network experience wherever EE customers go.

EE customers can pre-order a 5G smartphone on EE’s new 5G Smart Plans. Plans start from 10GB (£54 per month) and extend up to 120GB (£74 per month).

This is Phase 1 of EE’s 5G rollout: a ‘non-standalone’ deployment focused on using the combined power of 4G and 5G to give customers the fastest, most reliable mobile broadband experience they’ve ever had.

Phase 2, from 2022, will introduce the full next generation 5G core network, enhanced device chipset capabilities, and increased availability of 5G-ready spectrum. Higher bandwidth and lower latency, coupled with expansive and growing 5G coverage, will enable a more responsive network, enabling truly immersive mobile augmented reality, real-time health monitoring, and mobile cloud gaming. Phase 2 is also a vital step on our journey to the convergence of our network technologies, as we bring together fixed, mobile and WiFi into one seamless customer experience.

Phase 3, from 2023, will introduce Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), Network Slicing and multi-gigabit-per-second speeds. This phase of 5G will enable critical applications like real-time traffic management of fleets of autonomous vehicles, massive sensor networks with millions of devices measuring air quality across the entire country, and the ‘tactile internet’, where a sense of touch can be added to remote real-time interactions.

Commenting on the announcement, Kester Mann, Principle Analyst Operators at CCS Insight. said: “EE’s launch highlighted that the shift from 4G to 5G is an evolutionary one, as it focused on offering a more reliable mobile experience. Its new 5G propositions contain little that is truly innovative, but address existing customer pain-points without over-inflating expectations. Being first-to-market with 5G matters little to consumers, but is clearly an important honour for BT. It enables the company to reinforce its network leadership and chimes nicely with the sentiment of new CEO Philip Jansen, who plans to transform the company into a ‘national champion’. In getting 5G as soon as next week the UK will have completed a remarkable turnaround, from laggard to leader. In 2012, it become only the 53rd nation to launch 4G. Now, with all four networks planning to go live in 2019, it can justifiably claim to be one of the world’s 5G pace-setters.”

Industry analyst Paolo Pescatore from PP Foresight commented: “This is a statement of intent and its aggressive ambitions to rollout 5G should be applauded. More importantly, this is great news for the UK digital communications infrastructure.”

He added: “Ultimately, consumer demand for 5G is unproven. Asking them to pay a premium will be challenging. Therefore, articulating the merits and offering features like swappable benefits will be paramount. Bundling a range of services and content will allow the telco to differentiate over rivals. This is a sensible approach given the huge cost of acquiring spectrum and rolling out expensive new network technology. The initial premium will quickly erode as we’ve seen with previous generations.”


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