EE has just sent its 5G network live in six major UK cities. That means that, if you happen to have a 5G phone, you can now tap into way faster mobile speeds − as long as you’re in the right place. EE has beaten its biggest rivals to the punch, including Vodafone.
Read on for everything you need to know about EE’s 5G launch, including plans, phones, coverage and speeds.
EE 5G coverage − Where can you access 5G on EE?
EE’s first 5G launch cities are London, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff, Manchester and Birmingham.
However, EE’s 5G network doesn’t cover the entirety of the cities listed above. Instead, the mobile operator says it has adopted a “demand-led” strategy, focusing on “the busiest locations in the busiest cities where it can make the biggest difference to the most people”.
For instance, in the six initial launch cities, EE has focused on bringing 5G to major UK hotspots like London’s Hyde Park, Wembley Stadium, Covent Garden and the Tower of London, Manchester Arena, Belfast City Airport, the Welsh Assembly, Edinburgh Waverley train station and Birmingham’s Bullring.
Frustratingly, EE hasn’t yet revealed the exact locations of its 5G nodes. It’s an extremely important missing detail, as you’ll have to be in the immediate vicinity of them in order to access 5G. There are some very rough 5G coverage maps on its website though. Just follow this link to check them out.
EE says it will add more than 100 new 5G sites to its network every month, and will have 1500 5G sites before the turn of the year.
5G will go live in Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry and Bristol before the end of the 2019. EE will then target Aberdeen, Bournemouth, Brighton, Cambridge, Dundee, Exeter, Ipswich, Norwich, Plymouth, York, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Southampton, Worcester and Wolverhampton in 2020.
Blanket 5G coverage will come later, perhaps as late as 2022.
Related: Vodafone 5G phones, prices and plans
The operator is initially concentrating on outdoor 5G coverage. “We have a strategy to look specifically at indoor locations for 5G. We are very much focused right now on those top cities of the UK and as we go through that rollout, if we identify any specific indoor locations … our connected strategy is about fixed Wi-Fi and cellular,” Sam Kemp, BT’s technology director for products and devices, told Trusted Reviews.
“So we will make a decision around which is the best technology to put into a train station or a bus stop, a coach station, a shopping mall. We’ll pick the best technology.”
EE 5G speeds − How fast is EE’s 5G network?
EE CEO Marc Allera said that he expects users to hit speeds of 150Mbps on average, and is confident that some customers will even break the fabled 1Gbps milestone on 5G, as some early users of Verizon’s 5G network have managed in parts of the US.
“EE expects customers to experience an increase in speeds of around 100-150Mbps even in the busiest areas,” the company said.
As you can see from the image above, during speed test demos that EE carried out near its 5G antennas at St Paul’s (using a OnePlus 7 Pro 5G), 490Mbps 5G download speeds were recorded. A quick look at the YouTube app showed that videos loaded instantly.
The demos, of course, were carried out under optimal conditions. Real-world speeds may well be different.
Kemp told Trusted Reviews that he expects to see 5G upload speeds “between 30Mbps and 70Mbps”. Oh, and tethering on 5G will work exactly like it does on 4G.
5G, however, isn’t just about faster speeds. Lower latency has also been promised, and EE says 5G should reduce it “from 30-40ms today, to as low as 10ms in the future”.
Related: What is 5G?
EE 5G plans − How much does 5G cost?
You’ll have to get on board with one of EE’s new 5G Smart plans to access the operator’s 5G network, and there are several data and device options to choose from.
Prices start at £54 per month (that gets you the Oppo Reno 5G with 10GB of monthly data, after a £170 upfront fee). EE’s priciest 5G plans will set you back £89 per month (after an upfront fee of £10) and get you 120GB of 5G data on either the LG V50 or Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.
There are some extra perks and benefits included in the contracts, including exclusive access to the HD HDR version of the BT Sport app, and the Gamer’s Data Pass, which is coming in August.
For a full breakdown of EE’s 5G phones and plans, check out: Which phones will EE be selling on its 5G network?
All of the above is what EE describes as “phase one of our 5G vision”.
EE says phase two of its rollout in 2022 will introduce the full next generation 5G core network, enhanced device chipset capabilities, and increased availability of 5G-ready spectrum.
“mmWave is not part of this launch. It’s something we’re looking at,” Allera said at a press conference ahead of the launch, adding that it might come as part of phase two (more on this further down the page).
It has promised “ultra-reliable low latency” and multi-gigabit-per-second speeds for phase three, which is scheduled for 2023 and beyond.