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5G in the UK: everything you need to know

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.

Update: Sky Mobile is the latest network to launch 5G in the UK

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 most phones don't support 5G yet, so most 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.

There's just one major network we're still waiting on to launch its full 5G service. Three has technically offered a 5G network as of August 19, 2019, but only for home broadband, and only in parts of London - it will however, expand to phones at some point.

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.


5G on EE

Image Credit: EE

Image Credit: EE
  • EE 5G launch date: May 30, 2019
  • EE 5G UK towns and cities: 50 (70+ by March 2020)
  • EE 5G phones: 8

EE 5G locations

EE has rolled out its 5G UK coverage to 50 towns and cities.

EE's 5G cities so far are: London, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Belfast, Manchester, Cardiff, Bristol, Coventry, Leicester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield, Sunderland, Wakefield and Wolverhampton.

And the towns with 5G from EE are: Ashton-under-Lyne, Castlereagh, Chatham, Clifton, Dudley, Gillingham, Grays, Guildford, Hamilton, Harlow, Hoddesdon, Huddersfield, Kimberley, Kingston-upon-Thames, Lichfield, Lisburn, Maidstone, Milnrow, Northampton, Oldham, Potters Bar, Rochdale, Romford, Salford, Solihull, Stevenage, Sutton Coldfield, Sydenham, Walsall, Watford and West Bromwich.

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 claims it will have 5G in more than 70 towns and cities by March 2020.

EE 5G devices

EE has eight 5G smartphones for you to choose. The cheapest options are the Oppo Reno 5G and 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 Note 10 Plus 5G, Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and LG V50 ThinQ 5G, while the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G and Huawei Mate 20 X 5G sit in the middle of the group.

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.

EE 5G cost

So how much is EE asking for 5G in the UK?


5G on Vodafone

Image Credit: Vodafone

Image Credit: Vodafone
  • Vodafone 5G UK launch date: July 3, 2019
  • Vodafone 5G UK town and cities: 37
  • Vodafone 5G phones: 5

Vodafone 5G locations

Vodafone 5G is now live in 37 locations; Ambleside, Bebington, Belfast, Birkenhead, Birmingham, Bootle, Bristol, Cardiff, Cheadle and Gately, Droylsden, Eccles, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Horwich, Huyton-with-Roby, Isle of Scilly, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Llandudno, London, Manchester, Mangotsfield, Newbury, Paisley, Penarth, Plymouth, Prestwich, Rochdale, Salford, Solihull, Stockport, Stoke-on-Trent, Stretford, Wallasey, Warrington and Wolverhampton.

Vodafone has also promised to bring 5G to a further six locations; Blackpool, Bournemouth, Guildford, Portsmouth, Reading and Southampton. It had previously said 5G would be available in these places by the end of 2019, but we're still waiting for confirmation it has been deployed.

Vodafone 5G devices

So far, Vodafone has five 5G smartphones on offer, with the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G, Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, Samsung Galaxy A90 5G and Huawei Mate 20 X 5G all available to buy now.

Vodafone 5G cost

So how much is Vodafone asking for its 5G services?


5G on Three UK

Image Credit: Three UK

Image Credit: Three UK (Image credit: Three UK)
  • Three 5G launch date: End of February 2020
  • Three 5G UK towns and cities: 65
  • Three 5G launch devices: 6

Three UK 5G launch date

Three has confirmed its mobile 5G network will go live by the end of February 2020, likely towards the end of the month.

Three UK 5G locations

Three's 5G network is set to launch in a whopping 65 different locations around the country. They range from the big cities like London and Manchester to rather smaller locations like Inchinnan, Brookmans Park and Barrow-In-Furness

There are a few notable locations missing from the proposed 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 previously sold Huawei Mate 20 X 5G, Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and Samsung Galaxy A90 5G despite not having a live 5G mobile network yet.

As of February 14, when Three announced its 5G release date, the Samsung phones there have been replaced with the Samsung Galaxy S20 series, and there are a few other devices available, with the total standing at six.

Three UK 5G cost

Three plans to offer 5G at no extra cost. Of course, 5G handsets are expensive in their very nature, with the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G, starting at £48 per month at the time of writing.


5G on O2

Image Credit: O2

Image Credit: O2
  • O2 5G launch date: October 17, 2019
  • O2 5G UK towns and cities: 6
  • O2 5G launch devices: 5

O2 5G locations

O2's 5G network is live in parts of London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Leeds and Slough, and the carrier has said it plans to have 5G live in 20 cities and towns before the end of the 2019. The additional 14 locations include:

Blackpool, Bournemouth, Bristol, Coventry, Derby, Eton, Guildford, Leicester, Lisburn, Norwich, Nottingham, Reading, Stoke and Windsor.

It also said it plans to spread its 5G network to 50 locations by summer 2020, which would include Milton Keynes, Birmingham and Brighton.

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.

O2 5G cost

Wondering what a 5G phone on O2 will cost you? You can see current offers below - though note that this is for a 4G plan (you'll be able to move to a 5G one once the service is available).

Sky Mobile

5G on Sky Mobile

(Image credit: Sky)
  • Sky Mobile 5G launch date: January 16, 2020
  • Sky Mobile 5G UK towns and cities: 21
  • 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.

The Sky Mobile 5G locations are; London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Leeds, Slough, Leicester, Lisburn, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle, Bradford, Sheffield, Coventry, Nottingham, Norwich, Bristol, Derby, Stoke.

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.


5G on BT

(Image credit: BT)
  • BT 5G launch date: October 11, 2019
  • BT 5G UK towns and cities: 20
  • 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. Currently BT's site says it offers 5G in 20 towns and cities, but with EE 5G now available in 50 we'd expect BT to be the same.

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.