The current state of 5G deployments in the UK

The U.K. is one of the most developed markets in Europe in terms of 5G deployments. The country’s four mobile operators have already launched 5G technologies in the U.K.’s main cities as well as in several small and medium-sized cities.

EE

EE, part of telecom group BT, is currently offering 5G services in 112 towns and cities across the country.

EE launched the U.K.’s first 5G service in May 2019 and initially covered parts of London, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester. Other large cities in which the telco now offers 5G coverage includes Aberdeen, Blackpool, Bristol, Covently,  Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield and Sunderland.

EE also expects to launch 5G in parts of Cambridge, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Southampton and Worcester before the end of 2020.

EE previously said that the commercial launch was the first phase of the telco’s 5G rollout: a Non-standalone 5G New Radio deployment focused on using the combined power of 4G and 5G technologies. Phase 2, from 2022, will introduce the full 5G core network, enhanced device chipset capabilities, and increased availability of 5G-ready spectrum.

A third phase, beginning in 2023, will introduce Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), network slicing and multi-gigabit-per-second speeds. This phase of 5G will enable critical applications like real-time traffic management of fleets of autonomous vehicles and massive sensor networks.

Vodafone

Vodafone initially launched 5G services in the U.K in July of 2019. The carrier initially offered this technology in parts of Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, London, Manchester, and Glasgow.

According to the telco’s website, Vodafone’s 5G services are available in 57 locations across the country. Other key cities where the company provides 5G coverage are Belfast, Edinburgh, Leeds, Portsmouth, Reading, Southampton and Swansea.

Vodafone has been recently working with partners including Ericsson, MediaTek, OPPO and Qualcomm for the deployment of SA 5G in the country.

Three

Three initially launched 5G services in the country in August 2019, with the initial offering of a high-speed 5G broadband service in parts of London.

Three currently offers 5G in approximately 70 cities in the U.K, including Aberdeen, , Bath, Bedford, Birmingham, Blackpool, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Derby, Dundee, Glasgow, Ipswich, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Luton, Manchester, Nottingham, Plymouth, Reading, Swansea and Wigan.

O2

O2, owned by Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica, recently announced that its 5G network now serves a total of 108 towns and cities across the country.

O2 launched its 5G network in the UK in October 2019. O2’s 5G network was initially available in certain areas of Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Slough and Leeds. The carrier said that the initial focus for its 5G network was on highly populated areas including railway stations, shopping centers and sports stadiums.

The carrier is deploying its 5G infrastructure in partnership with Nordic vendors Ericsson and Nokia.

5G spectrum

In August, U.K. regulator Ofcom had announced plans to hold a 5G spectrum auction in January 2021.

Ofcom stated the auction would cover the sale of 80 megahertz in the 700 MHz band and 120 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz-3.8 GHz band.

Ofcom has imposed a 37% cap on overall spectrum holdings. As a result, BT and EE will be allowed to obtain a maximum of 120 megahertz, while Three and Vodafone will be able to secure up to 185 megahertz and 190 megahertz respectively. Due to its current spectrum holdings, O2 will not be restricted by the cap, Ofcom said.

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