5G: The Three Key Factors – Location

Ricky Shock, Mobile Product Manager

Today, I’ll be addressing the second key factor that will determine whether you can utilise a 5G service: your location. I’ll be answering the only relevant questions related to this contributing factor: “Is it available in my town?” and “If not now, when?”

If you haven’t read the first instalment of this series, about Mobile Network Operators, you can catch up here.

We are still in the very early days of the 5G rollout in the UK and, if previous projects, such as 3G and 4G, are anything to go by, we can confidently presume that 5G won’t be widely available across the UK for at least a couple of years, especially in more rural areas.

Operators will pick strategic “hotspots” on which to focus their initial launch strategies; these are cities that they consider most likely to show a high demand for access from inception, and that is where we find ourselves today. Announcements highlighting initial launch destinations are currently being released with a lot of noise, but as the project expands, you might find there is less excitement around this. However, even without the publicity, you can still stay up to date on 5G availability in your area with coverage checkers built into operator websites, enabling you to check national service availability yourself.

So where can we use 5G now? Here is what we know so far.

Vodafone

Vodafone boast that despite only launching on 3rd July 2019, they already cover 15 destinations: Birkenhead, Birmingham, Bolton, Bristol, Cardiff, Gatwick, Glasgow, Lancaster, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newbury, Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent and Wolverhampton.

Scheduled for activation before the end of the year are Blackpool, Bournemouth, Guildford, Portsmouth, Reading, Southampton and Warrington.
In addition, Vodafone customers can utilise the service whilst roaming in some EU destinations:

  • Italy: Milan, Rome, Turin, Naples, Bologna
  • Spain: Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Malaga, Zaragoza, Pamplona, Bilbao, La Coruña, Vigo, Vitoria, San Sebastián, Gijón, Logroño, Santander
  • Germany: Cologne, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Aldenhoven, Dortmund, Altenberge, Ratingen, Koln, Würselen, Lohmar, Karlsruhe, Westhausen, Rielasingen-Worblingen, Seehausen am Staffelsee, München, Birgland, Mellenthin, Hamburg, Hattstedt, Hersel, Wedemark

EE

Despite being slightly more established than Vodafone, at least in terms of getting 5G to the market first with their launch in May 2019, EE currently only offer the service in 6 destinations: London, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Belfast, Manchester and Cardiff.

They have plans to extend this to the following 10 locations by the end of 2019: Bristol, Coventry, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. With further locations set for activation throughout 2020 including Aberdeen, Cambridge, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Wolverhampton and Worcester.

There have been no specific announcements from EE around planned 5G roaming destinations yet.

O2

O2’s official stance around 5G is that they’ll be switching on their 5G network from October 2019, beginning with areas of Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Slough and Leeds.

In the immediate months following, they plan to increase that to 20 towns and cities by adding: Blackpool, Bournemouth, Bristol, Coventry, Derby, Eton, Guildford, Leicester, Lisburn, Norwich, Nottingham, Reading, Stoke and Windsor.

Then in 2020 they’ll be working on extending their coverage to a total of 50 locations by summer, so far I can only find confirmation of 23 out of the additional 30: Aberdeen, Bradford, Brighton, Birkenhead, Birmingham, Cambridge, Glasgow, Hove, Kingston, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newbury, Newcastle, Northampton, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Southampton, Sunderland, Warrington and Wolverhampton.

In addition to the towns and cities strategy, they are also targeting transport hubs, key business areas and entertainment and sports venues, including The O2 and Twickenham Stadium, alongside some major UK businesses, including Network Rail.

No additional information is currently available on 5G whilst roaming.

Three

Three have launched this week, focusing specifically on parts of London. However their second phase, ongoing throughout the remainder of 2019, will see availability brought to: Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Reading, Rotherham, Sheffield, Slough, Sunderland and Wolverhampton.

Again, no information is available on 5G roaming with this network as of yet.

Other MVNOs

As noted in part 1 of this blog, Mobile Virtual Network Operators utilise network infrastructure from one or more of the “Big Four” listed above. As such, 5G location availability will be determined by the providers whose infrastructure they utilise.

These 5G active cities and towns are changing weekly, in some cases daily, and the information listed was correct at time of publishing. To keep up to date with your network operator’s progress with 5G rollout, visit their websites. In all instances, they clearly and openly list their status and upcoming plans.

Please note: this information was accurate at time of publishing, on 22nd August 2019.

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