British mobile network operator EE, a unit of BT Group, has announced that nine 5G trial sites are now live across East London, reportedly cover Provost Street, City Road, Central Street, Old Street, Cheapside, St Paul’s, Finsbury Circus Garden, Clerkenwell Street and Bartholomew Square. According to EE businesses and consumers in these areas are being invited to join the trial that will initially use 5G as an alternative to their fixed broadband. In the operator’s press release, EE noted that its trials of the next generation of mobile broadband technology have, so far, ‘encompassed every element of building a new 5G network, from obtaining planning permission and access agreements, through to managing power outputs’. Looking ahead, the carrier has said the trial will go on to assess the customer experience of new 5G spectrum. Meanwhile, it said the trial has highlighted a number of key challenges when deploying 5G, including: that rooftop sites often need significant strengthening to carry the new 50kg 5G antennas; that the level of upgrade work required can cause delays in obtaining planning permission, and can necessitate repeat visits; and that the location for 5G antennas can be dictated by the need to stay below regulated power output levels.
Commenting on the trial, Howard Watson, CTIO at BT Group, said: ‘Deploying this brand new layer of our EE mobile network is far from straightforward, and this trial has helped us to understand – and learn how to overcome – the significant challenges that we’ll face in the coming years. We’re also learning about the coverage we can achieve with 5G New Radio on our new 3.4GHz spectrum, both indoors and in densely cluttered streets.’
Alongside the sites in operation in East London, EE is also currently trialling live 5G in Canary Wharf, and new device functionality is being tested at its Borehamwood lab. EE has said it is aiming to be the first of the UK’s cellcos to offer consumers and businesses 5G, and it is planning to launch the technology commercially next year in ‘the busiest parts of the UK’s busiest cities’.