5G in the UK: everything you need to know

null
Image Credit: Samsung / TechRadar

5G in the UK is here! Almost. Yes. Sort of. Depending on your network, location and choice of device.

You won't see all 5G networks launch at the same time, and the fifth generation of network won't be available nationwide from day one, plus you'll need a smartphone which supports 5G to take advantage of the new, super-speedy connectivity.

Update: Three has revealed its UK 5G plans, and it'll launch in 25 cities before the end of the year.

Thankfully we've got all the information you need to ensure a smooth transition onto the 5G superhighway. So grab your phone, buckle up and prepare to merge into the fast lane.

I want 5G right now

What is 5G?

5G networks are the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, offering faster speeds and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices than ever before.

Read more about 5G

If you're not interested in the nitty gritty and already have your heart set on a 5G phone and plan, we've collected the best 5G deals in the UK for you.

EE is the first network to launch 5G in the UK, and it's currently your only option, with Vodafone next in line with a July 3 launch slated. 

We're still waiting for Three and O2 to confirm their 5G launch dates, but both will have their networks live before the end of the year.

You will need a new 5G phone and 5G contract to take advantage of it, and live in one of the six cities that have the connection to make use of the fifth generation of network. 

5G on EE

Image Credit: EE

Image Credit: EE

  • EE 5G launch date: May 30, 2019
  • EE 5G launch cities: 6 (16 by end of year)
  • EE 5G launch devices: 4

EE 5G launch date

EE was the first to launch its 5G network, with it landing in the UK on May 30, 2019 - beating the rest of the pack to the punch, as it did with 4G.

EE 5G locations

Initially you can get EE 5G in six cities in the UK, with London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester the lucky recipients, but the network has committed to rolling out 5G to 10 more cities before the end of the year.

EE customers can expect 5G to hit the following areas in 2019: Bristol, Coventry, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.

However, at launch EE's 5G coverage does not reach all areas of every city. We've tested it out in London, and found that it's not consistent. In areas where 5G is available though, we're consistently getting speeds of around 200Mbps (versus around 15-20Mbps on 4G devices).

EE 5G devices

EE has four 5G smartphones for you to choose. The cheapest is the Oppo Reno 5G, the priciest are the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and LG V50 ThinQ 5G, while the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G sits in the middle of the group.

Previously, EE had confirmed that it would also stock the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G, however it has since been temporarily pulled from the line-up due to the recent Huawei ban.

EE 5G speeds

We got our hands on the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G on launch day and have been testing out the speed of EE's shiny new network.

While top speeds of way over 1Gbps are quoted, in reality we've seen speeds more consistently around the 200-400Mbps threshold - still comfortably faster than average 4G speeds.

The fastest 5G speed we've managed to achieve in London is 550Mbps, and in that location we downloaded an hour long, 1GB, high quality video from Amazon Prime in 43 seconds.

EE 5G cost

So how much is EE asking for the first taste of 5G in the UK?

5G on Vodafone

Image Credit: Vodafone

Image Credit: Vodafone

  • Vodafone 5G launch date: July 3, 2019
  • Vodafone 5G launch cities: 7 (19 by end of year)
  • Vodafone 5G launch devices: 2

Vodafone 5G launch date

Vodafone will launch its 5G network in the UK on July 3, 2019.

Vodafone 5G locations

Vodafone 5G will go live in seven locations on launch day, with London, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Cardiff and Bristol getting the next generation of mobile network.

It's not done there though, as Vodafone has also promised to bring 5G to a further 12 locations before the year is out. The lucky locations are: Birkenhead, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Guildford, Newbury, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Reading, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Warrington and Wolverhampton.

Vodafone 5G devices

So far, Vodafone has confirmed it will range two 5G smartphones, with the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G and Samsung Galaxy S10 5G both available to buy now - but you'll have to wait until July 3 to take advantage of its 5G network. Until then, the phones will still happily operate on 3G and 4G.

Vodafone 5G cost

So how much is Vodafone asking for its 5G services?

5G on Three UK

Image Credit: Three UK

Image Credit: Three UK

(Image: © Three UK)
  • Three 5G launch date: August 2019 (broadband only)
  • Three 5G launch cities: 25
  • Three 5G launch devices: ??

Three UK 5G launch date

Three has confirmed it will launch its 5G network in 2019, with its 5G home broadband offering going on sale first in London, in August, and its mobile 5G proposition arriving later in the year.

Three UK 5G locations

Three says it will launch 5G in 25 towns and cities around the UK by the end of year. 

The locations are:  London, Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Reading, Rotherham, Sheffield, Slough, Sunderland and Wolverhampton.

It also claims that it aims to provide 5G coverage to 80% of its network traffic in three years.

Three UK 5G devices

Three is another network who has said previously it will sell the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G, but with the recent Huawei ban this may change. 

A Three spokesperson told TechRadar: "We are currently considering what all the implications are. We will evaluate what impact this has on the customer, both short and long term, and act accordingly."

We'll update this page as soon as we know more.

Three UK 5G cost

With no firm 5G launch date or device confirmation, we'll have to wait and see what prices Three will set. We'll update this page as soon as we know more. 

Three will announce its 5G handset range and pricing in July.

5G on O2

Image Credit: O2

Image Credit: O2

  • O2 5G launch date: 2019
  • O2 5G launch cities: 4
  • O2 5G launch devices: 1

O2 5G launch date

All O2 has confirmed so far is that it will launch its 5G network in 2019.

O2 5G locations

While we wait for an O2 5G release date, we do know where the carrier's 5G network will land first, with four cities lined up. Those places are the four capitals of the UK; London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast.

O2 5G devices

We know O2 will offer the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, but it's not clear whether it'll be on offer when its new network go lives. We'll update this page as soon as we know more.

Previously, O2 also confirmed that it would stock the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G, however with the recent Huawei ban this may change.

O2 5G cost

With no firm 5G launch date or device confirmation, we'll have to wait and see what prices the network will set. We'll update this page as soon as we know more.