BT-owned EE is to launch the UK’s first commercial 5G mobile service at the end of this month in six cities: London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast.
Consumers and businesses can pre-order 5G devices, including smartphones from Samsung, OnePlus, LG, and Oppo, and EE is also announcing a 5GEE WiFi and 5GEE home broadband with pricing and availability to follow.
EE’s new 5G Smart plans will give customers access to what EE claims to be the UK’s first 5G network, BT Sport HD HDR and a Gamer’s Data Pass with zero-rated data.
The BT Sport app in HDR will be exclusive to 5G plans for EE customers and is worth £15 a month. The service is marketed as a ‘swappable’ service that EE customers can exchange for other services within their Smart plans.
EE is also offering a video data pass worth £8.99 whereby users can stream video services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BT Sport, TV Player and MTV Play without using their data.
The first phase of the launch will tap 4G and 5G networks to deliver higher bandwidth ahead of a second phase in three years time that will see the introduction of a full 5G core network.
“This is the start of the UK’s 5G journey and great news for our customers that want and need the best connections. We’ve started with 5G in some of the busiest parts of the UK, the widest range of 5G devices in the UK, and plans that give customers the best mobile connection and great benefits,” said BT consumer division CEO Marc Allera.
“We’re adding 5G to the UK’s number one 4G network to increase reliability, increase speeds, and keep our customers connected where they need it most. 5G will create new experiences with augmented reality, make our customers’ lives easier, and help launch entirely new businesses that we haven’t even imagined. We’re upgrading more than 100 sites to 5G every month from today to connect more places to what 5G can enable.”
Later this year EE will be introducing 5G across the busiest parts of Bristol, Coventry, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.
Launches next year will include Aberdeen, Cambridge, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Worcester and Wolverhampton.
“This represents a landmark moment for the UK, as EE will be the first operator to launch commercial 5G services .It is quite an accolade which builds upon its early mover advantage in 4G and firmly reinforces its network leadership over rivals,” said Paolo Pescatore, tech, media and telco analyst at PP Foresight.
“Ultimately, consumer demand for 5G is unproven. Asking them to pay a premium will be challenging. Therefore, articulating the merits and offering features like swappable benefits will be paramount. Bundling a range of services and content will allow the telco to differentiate over rivals. This is a sensible approach given the huge cost of acquiring spectrum and rolling out expensive new network technology. The initial premium will quickly erode as we’ve seen with previous generations.”
Kester Mann, principal analyst, operators at CCS Insight said: “Being first-to-market with 5G matters little to consumers, but is clearly an important honour for BT. It enables the company to reinforce its network leadership and chimes nicely with the sentiment of new CEO Philip Jansen, who plans to transform the company into a ‘national champion’”
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