O2 launches 5G network in six UK cities

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O2 has today rolled out its 5G network in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Slough and Leeds.

The network rollout, which includes a range of new tariffs and unlimited data options, boosts capacity and reliability in these cities. O2 said that it now invests £2 million a day in its network.

“Today is a significant moment for our customers and our business as we switch on the O2 5G network. We’re launching with a range of tariffs that make it easy and fair for customers to access 5G, with flexible plans that cost no more than 4G. We’re also switching on 5G in important parts of towns and cities first, places where it will benefit customers and businesses most,” said Mark Evans, CEO of Telefónica UK.

“I believe 5G is going to revolutionise the way people and businesses use mobile connectivity, unlocking huge possibilities for our economy and society. No one in the country has all the answers today, but I’m excited about getting it into the hands of our customers and working with leading partners to help shape the future of 5G for the next generation.”

O2 said that the network will initially switch on where it’s needed most, including busy footfall areas around London Waterloo and Kings Cross; Haymarket in Edinburgh; Trinity Shopping Centre in Leeds; and Belfast South city centre; or in busy match-day hotspots around Twickenham or the Emirates Stadium.

O2 customers can access 5G through its “revolutionary custom plans”, giving them the flexibility to take advantage of 5G on their terms. O2 has also released an exclusive partnership tariff with Oculus from Facebook and MelodyVR, “the destination for music in virtual reality”, giving customers exclusive cutting edge VR music experiences.

Digital Minister Matt Warman added: "We want the UK to be a global leader in 5G and for the majority of the population to have access to a 5G signal by 2027. This investment by O2 is a great step forward in rolling out the technology across our home nations, providing world-class infrastructure to help us grow our economy and compete strongly."

The news follows launches by other major providers such as BT, Vodafone and EE in recent months.

O2’s 5G network infrastructure is being rolled out in partnership with Ericsson and Nokia, following a competitive tender earlier this year. O2 announced that the network will be live in a total of 20 towns and cities by the end of the year, and 50 by summer 2020.

Despite the news, Dmitry Kurbatov, CTO of Positive Technologies, warned about the potential risks of 5G networks: “While it is easy to get pulled into the hype surrounding 5G, we need to learn from repeating the mistakes of previous generation networks, to future-proof operations. The reality is that these networks are becoming an increasingly attractive target for cyber criminals, as 5G increases the available threat surface by facilitating the use of IoT devices - along with the consequences of any damage inflicted.”

He added: “Due to the 5G network’s reliance on the old 4G architecture, previous issues will continue to pervade. Our experts have managed to intercept voice calls on all tested 4G networks and successfully intercepted SMS messages on 94% of tested networks.

“Security threats associated with 4G will continue to remain long after 5G reaches the public and will heavily influence deployments for at least the next three to five years. Network providers need to make sure they have full visibility of their network infrastructure so they can flag up vulnerabilities.”

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