EE has confirmed its 5G service will go live in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester on May 30th, with pre-orders now open for both personal and business users.
The network will be the first in the UK to offer personal and commercial customers 5G speeds and aims to have 1,500 5G sites around the country by the end of this year, including in Bristol, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Liverpool, Hull, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow.
5G will then go live in Aberdeen, Cambridge, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Worcester and Wolverhampton during 2020.
At a launch event near St Paul’s in central London, EE and BT Consumer CEO Marc Allera unveiled a partnership with Google which will see the two firms collaborate to bring 5G Google for Startups Campus in London and announced his network will be the exclusive telecom launch partner in the UK for Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, a new augmented reality game launching later this year.
Under the partnership, EE customers will be able to experience exclusive content and EE locations will appear in the game as sponsored Inns and Fortresses with higher reward payout and special quests. EE and developers Niantic will also work together “to ensure the best in-game experiences on 5G in the future.”
EE’s 5G service will be available through both handset plans and SIM-only contracts and customers will be able to add two swappable benefits such as unmetered video streaming to their plan.
Customers taking a handset from EE will also benefit from an extended device warranty for the lifetime of their contract, as well as an annual device and EE mobile account ‘MOT’.
The service launches with handsets from Samsung (Galaxy S10 5G), Oppo (Reno 5G), LG (V50 ThinQ) and One Plus (7 Pro 5G). Allera confirmed that plans to offer handsets from Huawei had been “parked” in light of the firm’s current blacklisting by the US government.
Handset plans start from £54 per month for 10GB of 5G data and rise to £74 per month for 120GB.
Existing customers are advised to visit their local EE store to discuss upgrade options.
In addition, EE is offering 5G based WiFi with the HTC 5G Hub, which will be available with an upfront cost of £100 and with 50GB of data per month for £50 per month, or for £75 per month with 100GB of data per month.
Allera said: “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.
“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.
“Our partnerships with Google and Niantic are just the start of our commitment to work with the most innovative and exciting companies in the world to ensure that EE customers are the first to benefit from the exciting new experiences that 5G will bring.”
Paolo Pescatore from PP Foresight said today’s announcement “represents a landmark moment for the UK, as EE will be the first operator to launch commercial 5G services.”
He added: “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.”