5G map: How can I get it, which providers offer it and where is it available?
1 June 2019, 14:02 | Updated: 1 June 2019, 14:04
The lowdown on the new fast network
It didn’t feel so long ago that 4G was being fêted as the great new technology on the block, set to revolutionise the way we consumed data on the go. In fact, that was back in 2012, and now seven years on we are seeing the rollout of the next generation of mobile data networks with 5G. That’s right, a whole five of them.
Actually, 5G refers to this being the fifth generation of mobile network technology which provides broadband access. With the way – and sheer quantity – of data we are consuming on-the-go, constant efforts are made to upgrade software and physical infrastructure to provide us with ever-increasing coverage and ever-faster download speeds – allowing us to enjoy all of those data-hungry apps and streaming services that we love.
So, the question on everyone’s lips while they impatiently wait on the train to load the next episode of [insert series here] is: how can I get hold of it?
All five main network operators in the UK have confirmed they will begin rolling out their 5G networks in 2019, although coverage won’t be exactly what you would describe as comprehensive.
Our 5G network is now live in Birmingham, Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, and Manchester.— EE (@EE) May 31, 2019
Click below to check coverage, and to find out about our rollout plans as we look to bring #5GEE to ten more of UK's busiest cities in 2019.https://t.co/7XqXv63Uff
EE has been the first network to launch their 5G service on 30 May in six cities: London, Belfast, Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham, with plans to extend to a further ten cities later this year. Vodafone is the only other provider to have set a firm date – 3 July – while BT, O2 and Three have been less specific in their rollout plans.
However, for the lucky ones who live in these cities, don’t expect a new data utopia quite yet. As well as needing to fork out for a new compatible handset plus a data plan, it will cost users north of £50 per month for just 10GB of data – which will likely get used up pretty quickly if you’re wanting to take advantage of the superfast speeds to download lots of media.
There’s also the question of coverage – even in the launch cities, coverage is patchy and there may be as many ‘notspots’ as ‘hotspots’, so signal may default to the slower 4G network much of the time.
Plus speeds aren't yet what you'd quite expect – while watchdog Ofcom suggests 5G could, in time, deliver speeds of up to 20Gbps (enough to download a full 4K movie in seconds), current fibre lines with EE can only support a maximum of 10Gbps, which is shared between users.
So in reality, users will probably receive around 150-200Mbps until the full network rollout in the coming years.