EE defends 5G network rollout plans after O2 criticism

EE has responded to recent comments made by rival mobile operator O2, which − rather pointedly − stated that any version of 5G that launches before 2020 will lack some key capabilities.

Earlier on in May, EE revealed plans to launch “a commercial 5G product” before the end of 2019. That’s slightly earlier than anyone had anticipated, and O2’s comments can be seen as something of an indirect swipe at its rival.

Related: What is 5G?

According to O2, we won’t be able to experience many of the benefits we’re expecting to get from 5G in 2019. Full capabilities, O2 says, will arrive in 2020.

“Any UK operator launching ‘5G’ before 2020 would be using a ‘lite version’ of 5G,” the company told 5G.co.uk. “Everyone in the world (including O2 in the UK) is expected to deploy 5G using a ‘non-standalone’ architecture to start with but it’s the ‘standalone’ version which comes after that and will offer the complete 5G experience.

“Effectively this means that a 5G launch before 2020 will lack certain capabilities (e.g. super low latency, vehicle communications for autonomous driving, enhanced security).”

This “lite” 5G network would be based on Release 15 rather than Release 16, according to O2. More details about Release 15 are expected to emerge in June, but Release 16 is set to arrive way out in December 2019.

However, EE has brushed off the comments, and believes that a fuss is being made over nothing.

“5G will evolve massively after its launch, which we’re targeting for 2019 – and which will be real 5G with 5G devices,” and EE spokesperson told Trusted Reviews, in response to O2’s comments.

“4G also evolved from launch to where we are now – we launched with 10MHz of spectrum, and now many of our sites have 65MHz live, so streaming and downloading is a totally different experience today – from a maximum of 50Mbps, to speeds in excess of 400Mbps. And we introduced 4G Calling to the UK in 2016 – before that, voice calls were carried on 2G and 3G.

“All generations of mobile technology evolve from launch – there’s nothing different about 5G in that respect, and there’s no need for confusing terms like ‘5G Lite.’”

EE continued: “5G, at launch, will be another significant step forward in the way consumers experience mobile broadband – lower latency than 4G and more capacity for users to share. And it will evolve over time to see more capacity, even lower latency, the ability to connect billions of devices, and the network slicing capability that opens up vertical markets and new applications.

“We’ve always been clear to our technical audience that we’re launching with non-standalone 5G, based on 3GPP Release 15 Option 3. And we’ll be very clear with customers about the capabilities of our 5G at launch, and as we introduce new features that enable new experiences.”

Are you excited about EE’s plans, or do you now have reservations? Share your thoughts @TrustedReviews.