EE is set to become the first mobile operator in the UK to launch 5G services after it announced plans to roll out 5G coverage in six launch cities at the end of this month.
EE’s 5G network will be switched on in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester on May 30, with a further 10 cities to be added by the end of the year and another 10 already announced for 2020.
The BT-owned operator’s new 5G Smart plans will give customers access to the 5G network, to the HD HDR version of the BT Sport App, and from August to a new Gamer’s Data Pass that gives users free data to stream Twitch and play titles like Pokemon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite thanks to a deal with Niantic.
Phase one of EE’s 5G rollout will be a ‘non-standalone deployment’ with 5G built on top of its 4G network, letting customers connect to both 4G and 5G at the same time. Phase two, from 2022, will introduce EE’s “full next-generation 5G core network”.
“This is the start of the UK’s 5G journey and great news for our customers that want and need the best connections,” said Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer division.
“We’re adding 5G to the UK’s number one 4G network to increase reliability, increase speeds, and keep our customers connected where they need it most. 5G will create new experiences with augmented reality, make our customers’ lives easier, and help launch entirely new businesses that we haven’t even imagined.”
In addition to its six launch cities, EE said it will be introducing 5G across the busiest parts of Bristol, Coventry, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield by the end of the year.
The 5G sites planned for 2020 include Aberdeen, Cambridge, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Worcester and Wolverhampton with more towns and cities to follow.
Overall, EE said that it will upgrade more than 100 sites to 5G every month and will expand its 4G coverage into rural areas. It also announced that it is partnering with Google to bring 5G to the Google for Startups Campus in London.
Commenting on the launch, CCS Insight Principal Analyst, Kester Mann, said that EE’s new 5G propositions “contain little that is truly innovative, but address existing customer pain-points without over-inflating expectations.”
“In getting 5G as soon as next week the UK will have completed a remarkable turnaround, from laggard to leader. In 2012, it became only the 53rd nation to launch 4G. Now, with all four networks planning to go live in 2019, it can justifiably claim to be one of the world’s 5G pace-setters.”
EE’s new 5G Smart Plans will start from £54 per-month for 10GB data and go up to £74 per-month for 120GB of data.