5G cities: where are the new networks availablein the UK?

O2 switches on its next-generation ultra-fast mobile service

(Image credit: AFP/Getty Images)

O2 has finally switched on its 5G mobile network, becoming the third major provider in the UK to move over to the next-generation connection.

The mobile provider has switched on its high-speed network in six cities, including London and Edinburgh, and plans to add a further 14 to the roster by the end of the year, Metro reports. By summer 2020, the company hopes to have connected 50 cities to the network.

The provider will open the network up to all of its users, while new customers will be “offered 5G plans in the same price point as current 4G options”, the news site says. However, users will need a 5G-compatible phone to make use of the faster connection speeds.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The news comes five months after EE flicked the switch on its 5G network in May, which was swiftly followed by Vodafone activating its network a month later.

Three has also released its own 5G network, albeit in a slightly different state to those on offer through rival firms.

As reported by TechRadar, the service provider is only offering 5G as part of a home broadband connection. What’s more, the network is only on offer for homes in certain areas in London, though it intends to add more cities to the service over the coming months.

Here are all the details about 5G networks, as well as where - and how - to connect to them:

What is 5G?

In short, 5G is a new generation of wireless connection that promises download speeds that are greater than traditional broadband networks for mobile users on the go.

Not only is the network far faster than today’s 4G services, the new technology is capable of handling more data and can connect more devices simultaneously, says Wired.

EE predicts that customers will see download speeds of between 100mbps to 150mbps in “busy network areas” when they switch over to a 5G plan, says the Daily Express.

To put that into perspective, EE says on its website that 4G customers can expect around 8mbps to 10mbps download speeds.

Meanwhile, Trusted Reviews says the average home broadband network in 2018 offered download speeds of 46.2mbps. Customers can take out broadband contracts with speeds of up to 1,000mbps, but these are considerably more expensive.

Which cities are getting 5G in 2019?

EE customers who move over to a 5G plan can access the next-generation network in Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London and Manchester, The Independent reports.

The network provider hopes to extend its coverage to 1,500 sites by the end of the year, which includes the “busiest parts” of Bristol, plus Coventry, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield, the news site adds.

Vodafone, meanwhile, has launched its 5G network across seven cities: Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and London, Pocket-lint reports.

The company will add 12 more cities - Birkenhead, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Guildford, Newbury, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Reading, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Warrington - to its 5G network “imminently”, the tech site says.

O2 has connected six cities - Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, London and Slough - to its network across the UK.

Is Huawei involved?

In a word, yes. Despite Huawei being “embroiled in controversy” over allegations that its network infrastructure kits “may be used by China to spy on foreign states”, The Daily Telegraph says, the tech giant is currently permitted to operate in Britain.

In May, Vodafone revealed that it would be using equipment provided by Huawei to underpin its 5G network infrastructure.

EE, however, hasn’t revealed whether Huawei’s infrastructure kits, which are widely regarded as the most advanced 5G systems available, feature on its new network.

That being said, both EE and Vodafone have temporarily stopped sales of Huawei smartphones that are compatible with 5G networks, including the upcoming Mate 20 X, The Guardian reports.

What phones are 5G-compatible?

There are currently four smartphones on offer through EE that are 5G-compatible and two with Vodafone.

EE customers can pick from the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Oppo Reno 5G and LG V50 ThinQ. Vodafone users, meanwhile, can only choose between the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G.

But there are a host of new models on the way, including the tablet-style Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and the Moto Z3, says T3.

Unfortunately for Apple fans, there currently isn’t a 5G-compatible iPhone on sale and the latest rumours suggest the tech firm may wait until next year to release one.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.