O2 expands UK 5G network to 60 cities

(Image credit: O2)

O2 says its 5G network is now available in 60 towns and cities across the UK, and that LTE-M, a connectivity standard that supports Internet of Things (IoT) use cases, is now switched on at 10,000 sites.

The operator switched on its first 5G masts in October, covering the four UK capitals – Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London – and has since expanded to the busiest areas of several major cities.

The list includes Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle, Bradford, Sheffield, Coventry, Nottingham, Norwich, Bristol, Derby and Stoke and this latest tranche of upgrades sees parts of Aberdeen, Brighton and Oxford added.

O2 5G expansion

The separate deployment of LTE-M connectivity in the east of the UK paves the way for the wider adoption of consumer and business IoT applications and devices.

IoT will enable smart consumer electronics as well as business applications in industries diverse as utilities, logistics, transport and building management. Government authorities will also benefit from smart street lighting, smart refuse collection and smart parking systems that drive efficiencies and reduce expenses.

However many of these deployments are in areas where traditional wireless or wired connectivity is unsuitable. Wi-Fi has the capacity but limited coverage, while traditional cellular networks consume too much power for devices that are designed to last more than five years in the field.

Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) standards such as Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) and LTE-M solve these issues by offering wide coverage with strong indoor penetration, coupled with low power consumption and the ability to operate with a fixed power source. This means they can stay in place for extended periods of time.

O2 says its new LTE-M network will cover 57 per cent of UK premises and 58 per cent of the population, facilitating wide rollouts.

Both NB-IoT and LTE-M will eventually form part of the 5G standard and the GSMA predicts that by 2025 there will be 3.1 billion cellular IoT connections, including 1.8 billion on LPWA networks.

“Our customer-centric networks, underpinned by 5G and LTE-M technologies, will help power this country into recovery as we look to rebuild Britain,” said Brendan O’Reilly, O2 CTO. “As the UK faces an uncertain year ahead, it’s vital we continue to invest in new innovations and technologies to keep Britain mobile and connected.

“I believe technologies like 5G and LTE-M are going to revolutionise the way people and businesses use mobile connectivity, unlocking huge possibilities for our economy and society. We’re excited to be getting this next generation tech into the hands of more of our customers, with tariffs that are flexible and affordable.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.