EE has this morning announced its 5G launch plans, and was quick to state that it will be the first UK network to launch 5G, and one of the first in Europe.
The BT-owned operator proudly announced May 30th as the launch date – just eight days from now.
What’s more, handsets for sale are now in stores and pre-ordering is open, with a new range of 5G plans that include two swappable benefits and data allowances of up to 120GB per month.
A 5G router from Huawei will be sold, however, along with a portable router from HTC.
SIM only plans, along with mobile broadband and 5GEE Wi-Fi plans will also be available (see below for pricing).
You can follow my Twitter thread for coverage of the launch event this morning. Click on the Tweet and follow the thread for all the posts.
The first places to get 5G coverage will be London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester. Outdoor coverage is being targeted first, starting with the most congested areas. Indoor coverage will be a future focus.
Going forward, around 100 new 5G sites will be added each month with coverage in Bristol, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Liverpool, Hull, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow.
In 2020 this will expand to cover Aberdeen, Cambridge, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Worcester and Wolverhampton.
Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer Division was keen to point out that 5G will complement 4G, and to start with all coverage will be ‘Sub-6’ frequency (that’s below 6,000MHz). More spectrum will be available in upcoming auctions, including 700MHz, and handsets will be able to use and combine both 4G and 5G data.
The 5G Network and Features
There are no current plans to use the highest frequencies, also known as millimetre wave (mmWave) but this isn’t being ruled out and there will be further developments of the 5G network as time goes on.
EE also used the launch event to reveal exclusive access to Niantic’s upcoming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite game (an AR game similar to Pokemon Go), while Google will also be able to enhance its services, from AR solutions (including AR navigation in Maps) to how it delivers video on YouTube.
EE is also working with Google’s Startups Campus at London King’s Cross, which will be one of the areas of London given 5G coverage in little over a week from now.
New 5G plans will come with data from 10GB through to 120GB, with prices starting from £54 per month and extending to £74 per month. Two swappable benefits are including, of which choices include zero-rated data access to music, video, additional roaming destinations (such as USA and Australia) and BT Sport in HDR.
A new Gamer’s Data Pass also allows zero-rated data access to selected games, as well as unlimited streaming on Twitch.
Customers can upgrade their smartphone at any time, and the handset warranty will last for as long as the contract. A £10 contribution towards a premium case or screen protector is also offered.
SIM only customers will be able to get a 20GB plan for £32 per month, rising to £52 a month for 100GB – around £5 a month more than current 4G plans.
5GEE Home and 5GEE Wi-Fi
The Huawei made home router will launch in June with pricing announced later. For the 5GEE Wi-Fi service, for those wanting the best broadband connectivity on the go, the HTC made device can be purchased for £100 up-front and then £50 a month for 50GB of data, or £75 a month for 100GB of data.
Finally, what would it be without an obligatory speed test? On the day, speeds weren’t quite as high as EE might have hoped – but they were far from bad. Obviously the number of 5G devices being used would be minimal ahead of launch, but with the site also delivering 4G to other Londoners at work in a heavily congested location, it was actually very impressive.
By comparison, a 4G device was ranging between 25-100Mbps. That’s not bad either by any measure, but certainly way down on what 5G was delivering. And as more 5G sites are brought in, speeds will only continue to increase – all the while bringing the benefits of lower latency.