EE names first UK cities to get 5G

London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester will be the first UK cities to receive a 5G network by the middle of 2019, deployed by mobile operator EE.

After years of trials, the next generation network is finally becoming a reality, after regulator Ofcom announced the winners of 5G spectrum in March – an auction which made £1.4 billion for the government.

EE stated that its 5G launch is designed to cover the busiest parts of the cities, like London’s Hyde Park, Manchester Airport, Edinburgh Waverley train station, Belfast City Airport, The Welsh Assembly and Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre.

The company plans to roll-out 5G sites in 16 UK cities in 2019, including Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry and Bristol.

EE will utilise BT’s 21CN core network for its 5G deployment.

“Adding 5G to the UK’s number one 4G network will increase reliability, increase speeds, and keep our customers connected where they need it most,” said Marc Allera, chief executive of BT’s consumer division. “We have an ambition to connect our customers to 4G, 5G or WiFi 100 per cent of the time.”

EE is upgrading 1,500 sites initially to 5G in 2019, which will carry a quarter of all data across the whole network, but only cover 15 per cent of the UK population. Rural areas will continue to struggle for strong and reliable mobile data, but EE noted it is still upgrading 4G sites as part of an overall network strategy, and is “turning the 3G signal into 4G to enable more spectrum for a better network experience”.

The company said it has also built more than 350 brand new sites in 2018 alone, while in February it offered to install a 4G antenna at premises where, because of their remote location, they could not get fast broadband speeds via a traditional fixed-line connection.

Earlier this month, Three UK said it had completed a number of key steps in its network improvement programme, as part of a wider £2 billion infrastructure investment in preparation for the advent of 5G.

The 5G technology will provide capacity to meet the anticipated future demand for data, with UK consumers expected to be using 13 times more mobile data in 2025 than today.

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