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5G in the UK: everything you need to know

5G in the UK
Image Credit: Samsung / TechRadar

5G in the UK is here! Or, at least, it is in certain places, and we know when it will be in many, many more, which is half the battle.

The 5G networks in the UK are launching in a very staggered manner, as some have been available since May 2019, while we're still waiting for others to roll out. Even with the networks that have launched, their 5G offerings aren't available nationwide, and on top of that many phones don't support 5G yet, so a lot of people can't take advantage of the new, super-speedy connectivity yet.

Thankfully we've got all the information you need to ensure a smooth transition onto the 5G superhighway. So grab your phone, buckle up and prepare to merge into the fast lane.

I want 5G right now

What is 5G?

5G networks are the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, offering faster speeds and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices than ever before.

Read more about 5G

If you're not interested in the nitty gritty and already have your heart set on a 5G phone and plan, we've collected the best 5G deals in the UK for you.

EE was the first network to launch 5G in the UK on May 30, 2019, Vodafone 5G went live on July 3 and O2 followed up with an October 17, 2019 5G launch in the UK. 

We've also seen 5G launches from BT Mobile on October 11, 2019 and Sky Mobile on January 16, 2020. Then in February, Three was the last of the major networks to bring out its 5G offering. Tesco Mobile and VOXI also now offer 5G.

Whichever network you opt for you will need a new 5G phone and in most cases a new 5G contract to take advantage of it, as well as needing to live or work in an area that has 5G coverage.

EE

5G on EE

Image Credit: EE

Image Credit: EE
  • EE 5G launch date: May 30, 2019
  • EE 5G UK towns and cities: 112
  • EE 5G phones: 12

EE 5G locations

EE has now rolled out its 5G UK coverage to 112 towns and cities.

EE's 5G cities so far are: London, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Birmingham, Belfast, Manchester, Cardiff, Bath, Bristol, Chelmsford, Coventry, Leicester, Liverpool, Oxford, Plymouth, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Lichfield, Lisburn, Newcastle, Nottingham, Salford, Sheffield, Stirling Sunderland, Wakefield and Wolverhampton.

And the towns with 5G from EE are: Aldershot, Altrincham, Ashford, Ashton-under-Lyne, Barrhead, Belshill, Birkenhead, Blackpool, Borehamwood, Bury, Bransholme, Brentwood, Castleford, Castlereagh, Chatham, Cheshunt, Chesterfield, Chester-le-Street, Chorley, Clevedon, Clifton (Notts), Clydebank, Crawley, Cumbernauld, Dartford, Dinnington, Doncaster, Dudley, Epsom, Grays, Gillingham, Guildford, Ilkeston, Hamilton, Hoddesdon, Harlow, Huddersfield, Inchinnan, Jarrow, Kimberley, Kingston-upon-Thames, Loughborough, Loughton, Maidstone, Milnrow, Minster, Mirfield, Motherwell, Newton-le-Willows, Northampton, North Shields, Nuneaton, Oldham, Paisley, Pontefract, Porthcawl, Potters Bar, Rochdale, Rochester, Romford, Rotherham, Rugeley (West Midlands), Shipley, Solihull, Southend-on-Sea, South Shields, Stafford, Staines-upon-Thames, Stevenage, Sutton Coldfield, Swadlincote , Sydenham, Walsall, Waltham Abbey, Waltham Cross, Walton-on-Thames, Warwick, Washington, Watford, West Bromwich, Westhoughton, Weston-Super-Mare, Weybridge and Wickford.

However, EE's 5G coverage does not reach all areas of every city. We've tested it out in London, and found that it's not consistent. In areas where 5G is available though, we're consistently getting speeds of around 200Mbps (versus around 15-20Mbps on 4G devices).

EE 5G devices

EE has 12 5G smartphones for you to choose from at the moment. The cheapest option is the Samsung Galaxy A90 5G, while the priciest - by quite a distance - is the foldable Samsung Galaxy Fold 5G.

There are premium flagship phones which aren't as eye-wateringly expensive as the Fold, including the Samsung Galaxy S20, Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and LG V50 ThinQ 5G.

EE 5G speeds

We got our hands on the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G on launch day and have been testing out the speed of EE's shiny new network.

While top speeds of over 1Gbps are quoted, in reality we've seen speeds more consistently around the 200-400Mbps threshold - still comfortably faster than average 4G speeds.

The fastest 5G speed we've managed to achieve in London is 550Mbps, and in that location we downloaded an hour long, 1GB, high quality video from Amazon Prime in 43 seconds.

Vodafone

5G on Vodafone

5G in the UK

Image Credit: Vodafone
  • Vodafone 5G UK launch date: July 3, 2019
  • Vodafone 5G UK town and cities: 54
  • Vodafone 5G phones: 11

Vodafone 5G locations

Vodafone 5G is now live in 54 locations: Ambleside, Bebington, Belfast, Birkenhead, Bishopbriggs, Birmingham, Bolton, Bootle, Bournemouth, Bristol, Bristol and Gatwick Airport, Cardiff, Cheadle and Gately, Cheltenham, Crosby, Droylsden,
Dunbarton, Eccles, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Guildford, Horwich, Huyton-with-Roby, Isle of Scilly, Kingswood, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Llandudno, London, Manchester, Mangotsfield, Newbury, Oldbury/Smethwick, Paisley, Penarth, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Prestwich, Reading, Rochdale, Salford, Solihull, Southampton, Stockport, Stoke-on-Trent, Stretford, Sutton Coldfield, Swansea, Swinton and Pendlebury, Urmston, Wallasey, Warrington and Wolverhampton.

Vodafone has also promised to bring 5G to a further locations including Blackpool. It had previously said 5G would be available here by the end of 2019, but we're still waiting for confirmation it has been deployed.

Vodafone 5G devices

So far, Vodafone has 11 5G smartphones on offer, with the Samsung Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20 Plus, Galaxy S20 Ultra, Galaxy Fold, Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G, Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, Samsung Galaxy A90 5G and Huawei P40 Pro all available to buy now.

Three

5G on Three UK

Image Credit: Three UK

Image Credit: Three UK (Image credit: Three UK)
  • Three 5G launch date: February 2020
  • Three 5G UK towns and cities: 68
  • Three 5G launch devices: 11

Three UK 5G locations

Three's 5G network is now live in; Aberdeen, Abingdon-on-Thames, Aldershot, Aldridge, Balloch, Barrow-in-Furness, Basildon, Bath, Bedford, Birkenhead, Birmingham, Blackpool, Borehamwood, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Brookmans Park, Cannock, Cardiff / Caerdydd, Chatham, Clayton-le-Woods, Coventry, Crawley, Cullingworth, Derby, Doncaster, Dundee, Glasgow, Gorebridge, Grays, Grimsby, Guildford, Heanor, Hedge End, Hemel Hempstead, Huddersfield, Inchinnan, Ipswich, Leeds, Leicester, Leyland, Liverpool, London, Lower Stondon, Luton, Maidstone, Manchester, Mansfield, Motherwell, Neston, Newquay, Nottingham, Nuneaton, Peterborough, Plymouth, Preston, Reading, Redcar, Royston, Sheffield, Shelly Green, Slough, St Albans, Stevenage, Sunderland, Swadlincote, Swansea, Swindon, Telford, Westhoughton, Wickford and Wigan.

There are a few notable locations missing from the map, like Edinburgh or Norwich, but it's likely Three will continue to roll out its 5G coverage over the course of 2020 and beyond. Three also claims it aims to provide 5G coverage to 80% of its network traffic in three years.

Three UK 5G devices

Three's 5G collection includes the OnePlus 8, OnePlus 8 Pro, Huawei Mate Xs, Huawei P40 Pro, Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S20, Samsung Galaxy A90 5G and the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G.

Three UK 5G cost

Three plans offer 5G at no extra cost. Of course, 5G handsets are expensive in their very nature, with the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus, starting at £53 per month at the time of writing.

O2

5G on O2

Image Credit: O2

Image Credit: O2
  • O2 5G launch date: October 17, 2019
  • O2 5G UK towns and cities: 75
  • O2 5G launch devices: 12

O2 5G locations

O2's 5G network is live in Aberdeen, Ashford, Banstead, Basildon, Belfast, Birmingham, Blaydon, Bradford, Bridge of Don, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Chatham, Chesterfield, Coventry, Dartford, Derby, Dewsbury, Dundee, Dyce, Eastbourne, Edinburgh, Esher, Gateshead, Gillingham, Glasgow, Grays, Hemel Hempstead, Huddersfield, Hull, Jarrow, Leeds, Leicester, Lincoln, Lisburn, Liverpool, London, Lowestoft, Luton, Manchester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough, Morley, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Newtownabbey, North Shields, Northampton, Norwich, Nottingham, Orpington, Oxford, Peterborough, Plymouth, Rainham, Redhill, Rotherham, Sheffield, Slough, Staines, South Shields, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunbury, Sunderland, Thundersley, Tynemouth, Warrington, Washington, Weybridge, Windsor, Worthing and York.

The O2 Arena in London and Twickenham Stadium also have O2's 5G coverage. There are still more places for O2 to turn on 5G though. The company has confirmed previously it plans to cover other locations, including Milton Keynes, in the future.

O2 5G devices

O2 currently offers the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, Galaxy A90 5G, Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G and the Oppo Reno 5G in its 5G handset lineup.

Sky Mobile

5G on Sky Mobile

(Image credit: Sky)
  • Sky Mobile 5G launch date: January 16, 2020
  • Sky Mobile 5G UK towns and cities: 75
  • Sky Mobile 5G launch devices: 4

Sky Mobile 5G locations

Sky Mobile initially launched its 5G service (which piggybacks on the O2 network) in 21 locations.

As it uses O2, its coverage should be the same, meaning the following 75 places now: Aberdeen, Ashford, Banstead, Basildon, Belfast, Birmingham, Blaydon, Bradford, Bridge of Don, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Chatham, Chesterfield, Coventry, Dartford, Derby, Dewsbury, Dundee, Dyce, Eastbourne, Edinburgh, Esher, Gateshead, Gillingham, Glasgow, Grays, Hemel Hempstead, Huddersfield, Hull, Jarrow, Leeds, Leicester, Lincoln, Lisburn, Liverpool, London, Lowestoft, Luton, Manchester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough, Morley, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Newtownabbey, North Shields, Northampton, Norwich, Nottingham, Orpington, Oxford, Peterborough, Plymouth, Rainham, Redhill, Rotherham, Sheffield, Slough, Staines, South Shields, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunbury, Sunderland, Thundersley, Tynemouth, Warrington, Washington, Weybridge, Windsor, Worthing and York.

Sky Mobile 5G devices

Sky Mobile currently ranges the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, Samsung Galaxy A90 5G and the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G.

BT

5G on BT

(Image credit: BT)
  • BT 5G launch date: October 11, 2019
  • BT 5G UK towns and cities: 112
  • BT 5G launch devices: 5

BT 5G locations

BT 5G is using EE's network, so it will be available where EE's 5G coverage is. You can see the full list of those locations above in EE's section.

BT 5G devices

BT's 5G phone lineup includes the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Samsung Galaxy Note 10 5G, OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, Huawei Mate 20 X 5G and Oppo Reno 5G.