5G in the United Kingdom: here’s everything you need to know

Vodafone becomes latest U.K. network to activate its 5G signal


Samsung Galaxy S10 5G

This year will see the first cities around the world get 5G mobile connectivity, and carriers are all starting to announce plans, hoping to entice you into buying not only a new smartphone, but also sign up to a 5G plan. The United States launch is already underway — AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile are all getting prepared — and the United Kingdom isn’t far behind.

Here are all the details on how to get 5G in the U.K. in 2019.

Vodafone

Only July 3, Vodafone switched on its 5G network in seven U.K. cities, with another 12 to follow before the end of the year. The service is available to both consumers and businesses, and what’s more is that for now, Vodafone is not charging any more to take advantage of the faster data speeds.

The seven cities are London, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff, Bristol, and Birmingham. By the end of the year, Birkenhead, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Guildford, Newbury, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Reading, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Warrington, and Wolverhampton will all be added to the list. Interestingly, Vodafone will also provide 5G roaming in Germany, Italy, and Spain this summer.

What phones can you buy, and how much do they cost?

  • The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G is the first 5G phone available to buy through Vodafone. Like other networks, there are various plans available, with the 25GB data plan costing 61 British pounds($77) per month, and the phone is 50 pounds ($63) up front.
  • The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G on the same 25GB monthly plan with Vodafone costs 73 pounds ($93) per month, and 100 pounds ($127) up front for the phone.
  • The Huawei Mate 20 X 5G was originally expected to be available to pre-order at the end of May, but it has not been added to Vodafone’s line-up yet.

Additionally, one other 5G phone is expected to be available before the network switches on its 5G signal, and Huawei will also supply Vodafone’s 5G home router, the 5G Gigacube, which will be released in the summer.

Vodafone has also introduced a new Unlimited Data Plan, where you subscribe based around the speed of the data, rather than the amount you use. The 5G plan costs 30 pounds per month, and will be available on July 10.

BT Mobile

5g uk vodafone ee o2 three news bt mobile

BT Mobile, a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that’s part of the BT Group has announced it will offer 5G in the fall. This is potentially great news for those in the U.K. waiting for more reasonable 5G tariffs, something which MVNO’s traditionally supply. It won’t be at the expense of coverage either, as BT Mobile uses EE’s network (BT Group acquired EE in 2016) and therefore will provide 5G coverage in the same cities. Currently, EE has 5G in six cities, and will expand coverage to 16 cities in total by the end of the year.

Subscribers to the BT Plus plan, where mobile and home connections are bundled together, will be first on the list to upgrade, with BT and BT Business customers to follow. Prices, and which 5G phones will be available, will be announced closer to the launch date. However, the promotional image shows what looks like the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, so it can be assumed this will be on offer.

Three UK

Three has become the third network in the U.K. to talk 5G dates and services. The company’s 5G home broadband will launch in August. Those in London will be the first on the list for the service, which Three says is “plug-and-play,” and only requires you to plug in a router. What about mobile 5G? That’s coming later.

The 25 cities across the U.K. — including London, Brighton, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, and Reading — will all see Three’s 5G before the end of the year. No exact date has been given for the mobile launch, or for London’s 5G broadband either, and we don’t know prices yet.

Three is confident its 5G network will be the fastest in the U.K., with peak speeds twice that of the competition, it says. It intends for 80% of its network traffic to have access to 5G over the next three years, and it will continue to build out its 4G network, too.

EE

EE has launched its 5G network in the U.K., throwing the switch on May 30, with London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast first on the list for coverage. Manchester and Birmingham will follow in the near future, and an additional 10 cities will join them before the end of 2019: Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry, and Bristol. If you’re wondering if 5G is available where you live in these cities, EE has a selection of coverage maps to examine here.

What phones can you buy, and how much do they cost?

  • The first 5G phone available to buy is the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, with the recommended plan costing 69 British pounds ($87) each month with a 50 pound ($63) upfront cost for the phone. This comes with 30GB of data each month.
  • The Oppo Reno 5G is available from June 7, and costs 50 British pounds ($63) up front, with 30GB of data each month and a 64 pound ($81) monthly tariff.
  • Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G is also in stock to buy now. The recommended plan from EE comes with 30GB data for 79 British pounds each month, and the phone costs 10 pounds up front.
  • The LG V50 ThinQ is ready to buy on EE for 50 British pounds ($63) on the 79-pound ($100) monthly tariff, which gives you 30GB of data.
  • EE has a range of SIM-only 5G plans, starting at 32 pounds ($41) per month with 20GB of data each month, up to 100GB of monthly data for 52 pounds ($66).

Another U.K. exclusive for EE — although details on exactly how this will play out are unknown — is Niantic’s augmented reality app Wizards Unite. The Harry Potter-themed game will launch in the future, and the low latency and fast connection speeds of 5G will likely be important for the best gameplay experience.

O2

Four cities — London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and Belfast — will all see an O2 5G signal in 2019, but the exact date has not been announced. Cities beyond this will start to get 5G in 2020.

Updated on July 3: Added final Vodafone 5G launch details.

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