5G in the United Kingdom: Everything you need to know

U.K. carrier EE will flip the switch on its 5G network on May 30

Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

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 U.S. launch is already underway — AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile are all getting prepared — and the U.K. isn’t far behind.

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

EE

EE will launch 5G on May 30, with London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast first on the list for coverage. Manchester and Birmingham will follow soon afterward. An additional 10 cities will join them before the end of 2019: Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry, and Bristol.

Compatible devices will be available from five different manufacturers: OnePlus, Samsung, HTC, LG, and Oppo. HTC will provide the 5G Smart Hub, while the other four will supply 5G smartphones. The OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, the LG V50 ThinQ, and the Oppo Reno 5G will all be exclusive to EE, and will be joined by the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus 5G.

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.

Both monthly plans with a phone contract and SIM-only plans will be available. Opt to have a phone, and these will cost from 54 British pounds per month with 10GB of data each month, or from 32 pounds per month on a SIM-only plan with 20GB of data each month.

Vodafone

Vodafone has become the first network to provide a switch-on date for its 5G signal in the U.K., promising seven cities will see 5G on July 3, and another 12 before the end of the year. The service will be available to both consumers and businesses, and what’s more is that for now, Vodafone will not charge 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.

There will be four 5G smartphones available to buy before the July 3 launch date, with the first coming next week, along with 5G router service for the home or office. The first smartphone will be the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G, released on May 23, followed by the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G, which will be available to pre-order at the end of May. The fourth phone has not been announced yet. Huawei will also supply Vodafone’s 5G home router, the 5G Gigacube, which will be released in the summer.

Vodafone states that new price plans will be revealed after May 23, and the phones will obviously work with 4G until 5G becomes available. When announced, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G was revealed to cost 600 euros, or about 520 British pounds, and as the tariff won’t change this may represent good value. Official prices have yet to be confirmed.

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.

Three UK

Three UK’s 5G network will be switched on during the second half of 2019, and it will offer various 5G phones and 5G routers, too. No dates, cities, or other information has been shared yet.

Updated on May 22: Added EE 5G launch details

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