EE launches UK's first 5G network

22 May 2019 | Laurence Doe

Cover

EE has today launched the UK’s first 5G service in six cities to businesses and consumers.

5G speeds of around 100-150 Mbps are now active in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester, which have been identified by EE as the busiest regions in the country and therefore most likely to benefit from an increase in data.

EE is rolling out its 5G deployment in three stages, with this first phase described by the network operator as “a ‘non-standalone’ deployment” that will focus on using the combined power of 4G and 5G.

In addition to the six launch cities, in 2019 EE will also be introducing 5G across the busiest parts of Bristol, Coventry, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.

In 2020, 5G sites will also come to Aberdeen, Cambridge, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Worcester and Wolverhampton.

Speaking to Capacity, Guillaume Sampic, Enterprise Strategy Director at BT  EE's parent company, commented: “The benefits of 5G to businesses in terms of latency, speed, reliability and volume will be a step change from where we are with 4G.

"5G will allow companies to do business faster when employees are on the move and get a reliable connection in the busiest places at the busiest times.

"For mission critical applications, 5G will enable new use cases for a range of industries and will transform our customers’ experiences.”

Phase 2, from 2022, will introduce a full next generation 5G core network, enhanced device chipset capabilities, and increased availability of 5G-ready spectrum.

EE stated that its plans for higher bandwidth, lower latency and 5G coverage “will enable a more responsive network, enabling truly immersive mobile augmented reality, real-time health monitoring, and mobile cloud gaming”.

The operator also described phase 2 as “a vital step” to converging fixed, mobile and Wi-Fi technologies.

Phase 3, from 2023, will introduce Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), Network Slicing and multi-gigabit-per-second speeds.

EE said it expected the third phase of 5G to enable critical applications like real-time traffic management of fleets of autonomous vehicles, sensor networks with millions of devices measuring air quality across the entire country, and the ‘tactile internet’, where a sense of touch can be added to remote real-time interactions.

The operator will also form partnerships to develop its networks further, namely with Google for its Startups Campus in London, which will allow developers to use EE 5G.

Business-grade mobile security is also being offered by EE from Mobile Iron, which is included as standard across both handset and SIM only plans to protect against device, network and app attacks.

If a device gets lost or stolen, employees can locate, lock, or wipe it remotely – protecting business and customer data, while their devices stay protected from malware and other threats.

An EE Business Connect 5G mobile sharer plan will also provide employees with a data allowance of between 1GB and 950GB to share across mobile, tablets and SIMs.

A new 5G fixed wireless broadband service, available on short term, 30 day contract, will also be launched by EE, and will provide a broadband connection to companies that want a fast connection alternative to fixed-line installation.

EE’s temporary broadband solutions for businesses will provide one to two terabytes of data.

Consumers and businesses can now pre-order new 5G devices, including smartphones from vendors Samsung, OnePlus, LG, and Oppo, which, according to EE, may be able to break the one gigabit-per-second milestone.

The fastest speed possible when EE launched 4G in 2012 was 50Mbps. 

The operator also plans to launch 5GEE Wi-Fi and 5GEE home broadband next month.

As well as upgrading more than 100 sites to 5G every month, EE has promised to expand 4G coverage into rural areas, and add more capacity to 4G sites by turning 3G signal into 4G and “enable more spectrum for a better network experience wherever EE customers go”. 

Gerry McQuade, CEO of BT’s Enterprise unit, said: “SMEs and larger businesses across the UK’s four capital cities, plus Birmingham and Manchester, will be the first to experience the game-changing benefits of 5G, with further coverage rolling out rapidly.

“We’re already working with our customers to help them maximise the potential of 5G. It will accelerate the growth of the UK economy by driving a fundamental change in how technology supports people, enables workplaces and simplifies business operations.”

Another large milestone that BT is focusing on is for its Openreach wholesale last-mile subsidiary to directly connected fibre to 15 million UK buildings by the mid-2020s.