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5G Race; How is the UK Faring in this Game?

5G Race: How is the UK Faring in this Game?

2019 witnessed the arrival of 5G technology, with mobile network providers and phone manufacturers competing to provide the much-hyped technology as part of their services.

Adoption in the UK is rapidly increasing, but with lightning-fast speeds just the tip of the iceberg, 5G still has a long way to go to reach its full potential. 

This post reveals the latest standard and how to get it on your mobile device, and whether you should believe any of the rumors around safety.

What is 5G?

This is the most recent, fastest generation of mobile networking. Lost connections and lagging are a thing of the past, and superfast, stable streaming, downloads, and connectivity are now available with 5G coverage – even in busy areas.

5G makes it possible for users to enjoy vastly improved, seamless performance, whether while watching a movie online or on a video conference call. This technology has changed the world around us and it’s helping us live better.

Being a modern technology, 5G promises to be up to 100 times faster than 4G and 2,000 times faster than 3G. This is the type of technology that can now be found on most mobile phone networks. 

The state of 5G technology in the UK

The economic recovery of the UK from the COVID-19 pandemic will heavily depend on innovation and the adoption of new technologies. Due to this, from reducing industrial emissions to remote connection through fixed wireless access broadband, 5G deployment will serve as a key enabler of this transformation.

Despite the conspiracy theories linking coronavirus to the installation of the 5G network, the pandemic has caused a significant delay in the rollout of the technology. Short-term delays have caused operators to reallocate some of the money meant for its roll out to other areas – further delaying its deployment.

Mobile operators in the UK have already launched 5G technologies in the major cities as well as in several small and medium-sized areas. Some examples of how they’ve done these include:

  1. EE

EE is currently providing 5G services in 112 locations across the UK. It launched the first 5G service in the UK in May 2019 and initially covered some parts of Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Belfast, and Birmingham. They now offer 5G coverage in other locations including Bristol, Coventry, Aberdeen, Hull, Leeds, Blackpool, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Sunderland, and Sheffield.

It is expected for EE to launch 5G in parts of Cambridge, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Southampton, and Worcester by 2021. Initially, EE claimed that the commercial launch was its first phase of 5G rollout.

They’ll introduce the second phase in 2022. This phase will have full 5G core network, better device chipset capabilities, and higher availability of 5G spectrum. A third phase will start in 2023 and it’ll introduce Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), network slicing, and multi-gigabit-per-second speeds. This final phase is projected to enable critical applications like real-time traffic management.

  1. Three

Previously, Three launched 5G services in the UK in August 2019, by initially providing high-speed 5G broadband service in parts of London.

Currently, they offer 5G in approximately 70 cities in the UK, including Bedford, Aberdeen, Bath, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Birmingham, Derby, Liverpool, Dundee, Blackpool, Cardiff, Leeds, Leicester, Coventry, Glasgow, Ipswich, London, Reading, Swansea, Luton, Nottingham, Plymouth, Manchester, and Wigan.

Three has announced the use of cloud capabilities to host its 5G services, which they claim have better capacity than the methods used currently. It also has double 5G spectrum as other providers. Their 5G pricing will be the same as the current 4G pricing with no speed caps.

  1. Vodafone

Vodafone previously launched 5G services in the UK in July of 2019. They offered this technology in parts of Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool, Cardiff, London, Manchester, and Glasgow.

According to their website, you can find their 5G services in 57 locations across the UK. Other major cities where the company provides 5G are Leeds, Portsmouth, Reading, Belfast, Swansea, Edinburgh, and Southampton.

Recently, Vodafone has been working with partners such as MediaTek, Ericsson, OPPO, and Qualcomm to deploy SA 5G in the country.

  1. Tesco 

Tesco Mobile also carries the 5G signal of O2 launched on the 3rd of March, 2019 in 24 locations. They are committed to doubling the number of locations in the future. Tesco Mobile launched with deals from just £15 for 5GB, making it one of the cheapest 5G network providers in the UK.

  1. O2

Recently, O2 announced that its 5G network now serves over 100 cities across the UK. They launched their 5G network in the country in October 2019 and it was initially available in some parts of Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Slough, and Leeds. 

O2 said that the initial focus for its 5G network was on highly populated locations such as railway stations, sports stadiums, and shopping centers. They are deploying their 5G infrastructure in partnership with Nokia and Nordic vendors Ericsson.

  1. 5G spectrum

UK regulator, Ofcom, announced plans to hold a 5G spectrum auction in 2021. They said that the auction would cover the sale of 80 megahertz in the 700 MHz bands and 120 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz-3.8 GHz band.

They imposed a 37 percent cap on the general spectrum holdings. Due to this, EE and BT will be allowed to obtain a maximum of 120 megahertz, while Three and Vodafone will be able to secure 185 megahertz and 190 megahertz respectively. As a result of its current spectrum holdings, O2 will not be restricted by the cap.

How can I get 5G?

Even though 5G is now in the UK, only a few people initially got it because only a limited number of the most modern phones are compatible with 5G – with no iPhone option yet. Additionally, the number of networks to offer it is limited, and it’s only in some locations.


5G is a cornerstone for digitalization in the UK because it is vital for the future success and the economic recovery of the UK. It fundamentally enables the UK to remain competitive in a post-Brexit world.

Being one of the first countries to launch 5G last year, the UK is already in a good position to maximize the potential of the 5G network. But in comparison to other 5G countries, it has to improve if it wants to maintain the pace, such as including more expansive coverage. Know more on how you can prepare your business for better communications.