British mobile network operator (MNO) EE has announced that it will launch the UK’s first commercial 5G services on 30 May, with handsets and devices now available for pre-order. In a press release confirming its plans, EE revealed details of its 5G tariffs, noting it will offer a range of six new 5G smartphones and devices, and confirming the initial launch locations as: London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast.
In terms of coverage expansion plans, the MNO aims to roll out 5G ‘rapidly from today’, with more than 100 sites to be upgraded to 5G per month, with these expected to extend the network footprint to the ‘busiest parts’ of Bristol, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Liverpool, Hull, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow this year. Looking further ahead, in 2020 another ten locations will be covered, those being Aberdeen, Cambridge, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Worcester and Wolverhampton.
Outlining the planned phases of its 5G rollout, EE said that it will also look extend 4G coverage into rural areas, and add more capacity to 4G sites ‘by turning 3G signal into 4G to enable more spectrum for a better network experience’. This first phase of rollout – ‘a non-standalone deployment focused on using the combined power of 4G and 5G’ – will be followed by ‘Phase 2’ from 2022, in which EE expects to introduce the full next generation 5G core network, enhanced device chipset capabilities, and increased availability of 5G-ready spectrum. Meanwhile, ‘Phase 3’, from 2023, will introduce Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), network slicing and multi-gigabit-per-second speeds.
With regards to pricing plans, EE’s new range of ‘5G Smart Plans’, which include a 5G smartphone, will start from GBP54 (USD61) per month for a tariff with a 10GB monthly data allowance, and rise to GBP74 for a 120GB monthly data cap. SIM-only plans will also be on offer, however, with these starting at GBP32 per month for a plan with a 20GB data allowance, with a top-tier 100GB plan costing GBP52 per month. EE has also confirmed it plans to offer a 5G home broadband service in June, with tariff details for this to be revealed ‘soon’.