EE to launch 5G trial in October

06 June 2018 | James Pearce

EE, the UK mobile operator owned by BT Group, has announced plans to launch the UK’s first live 5G trial network by the end of October, 2018.

EE antennas

The network will be switched on at 10 sites East London in October and will give EE customers and businesses access to 5G services for the first time. It will mark the first live 5G environment in the UK, should none of EE’s rivals launch a similar offering before then.

EE said it will give five small businesses and five homes the chance to connect to the 5G launch network in order to trial the technology, using prototype 5G broadband devices. The users will be picked through social media.

The aim of the trial is to demonstrate the capabilities of a 5G network, including high speed mobile data connections, in a dense urban environment. EE did not disclose when it is likely to make the service more widely available, but the general industry view is that widespread 5G deployments will commence in 2020 in most advanced markets.

Minister for digital, Margot James, said: "We want the UK to be a global leader in 5G as part of our ambition to create a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone. Together with the Government's own test beds and trials programme, industry initiatives like this will help deliver the benefits of this new revolutionary technology to businesses and consumers across the UK."

Though James said the UK aims to be a leader in 5G, it is worth noting that several US operators have already unveiled plans to launch a 5G service to customers by the end of 2018, with live trials already taking place.

Reports from CCS Insight in April said Europe looked set to lag behind the US and Asia in its readiness for 5G deployments

EE, which was bought by BT in 2016, said it is aiming to become the first UK mobile operator to launch 5G. It was first to launch 4G services, in part due to its origins as a combination of T-Mobile UK and Orange UK which freed up additional spectrum.

Capacity was the first to report last year that EE aimed to make some 5G services available in a live environment by the end of 2018, although this trial will initially be limited.

The area of London it is launching in is known as Tech City, and this, along with Wembley Stadium, has been utilised as a testbed by the mobile operator for several new network innovations, including 4.5G (LTE Advanced).

Telefonica’s O2 has also revealed 5G plans that will see it build a live 5G environment in the O2 Arena in London by the end of 2018, although no specific date has been given.

Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s consumer business, said: "This live trial is a big step forward in making the benefits of 5G a reality for our customers, and in making sure that the UK is at the front of the pack for 5G technology. 

"We’re focusing our resource and experience across EE and BT to ensure that we continue to lead the UK market with a mobile network that keeps giving our customers the best speeds and the best coverage. 5G is a fundamental part of our work to build a converged, smart network that keeps our customers connected to the things that matter most."

Topics: EE, 5G, UK, BT, Marc Allera, Margot James