5G arrives: first reactions and reviews

Charlie Spargo's picture
Marc Allera, EE

The arrival of 5G connectivity is another landmark in the progress of mobile technology in the UK. Promising "faster, more reliable connections", it has been rolled out by EE across London, Cardiff, Belfast, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Manchester.

It will also be available in busy parts of Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield.

Many will be anticipating its arrival with interest, and pushing its limits to see what it can do at this early stage.

Here's a quick breakdown of what 5G means for consumers:

What is it? 5G is a much faster and more reliable mobile network that enables smart devices to complete downloads quicker, load apps and pages faster, and stream videos more seamlessly. It's not just about speed, either - mobile networks will now be able to handle more individual connections at one time. So where 4G could handle around 60,000 connections per square km, 5G can in theory handle more than 1 million.

How much faster will things go? EE claims customers using 5G will notice internet speeds increasing by 100 - 150Mbps (megabits per second), up from the average of 30Mbps while using 4G. That's a potential speed increase of 500% - just a promise right now, and definitely not available from today. Most reviewers talking today have experienced periods of high speed interspersed with fairly normal browsing speeds.

On what networks is 5G available? Right now, just EE. The BT-owned company were the first to release the capability, in a limited capacity, across six UK cities. Vodafone is planning to launch their 5G network in the coming weeks, and O2 will later this year. Others will surely follow soon.

Is my phone 5G compatible? Unlikely. There are a select number of phones which are currently 5G-enabled. Apple isn't expected to release a 5G-enabled phone until late 2020.

Whilst a number of manufacturers are scheduled to release 5G enabled phones later this year, the only phone which is available now is the OnePlus 7Pro 5G. 

Here's what people on social media experienced and commented about their first few hours using 5G.

Broadcasting - with difficulty - over 5G

The BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones showed Twitter that he and his team were preparing for "the first live TV broadcast over a 5G network". However, he was having teething problems within a few minutes.

The broadcast was delayed after the Huawei equipment he was using encountered problems with data consumption.

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Offering higher speeds than ever

London-based Ben Wood, Wireless Industry Analyst at CCS Insight, has been testing 5G connectivity over the past few days. "When in 5G coverage I'm consistently getting 200Mbps to 400Mbps with the fastest speed peaking at around 700Mbps," he tweeted.

He also showed the real-life implications of using 5G, showing just how quickly a "very high" quality album could be downloaded via Spotify on the 5G network in Cardiff - "hard not to be impressed".

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Free upgrades 

Marc Allera, CEO of BT's Consumer Brands (EE, BT and Plusnet), was present at one of EE's shops. Customers have been queueing all morning to win a prize from EE - who are giving the first 50 customers to buy the OnePlus 6T on their network, a free upgrade to 5G and the compatible OnePlus 7 Pro 5G.

Allera was there as the very first customer in the queue got "a little piece of history".

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Streaming 4K video

The i newspaper's technology correspondent, Rhiannon Williams, says streaming HD video is the best way to draw comparisons.

She tweeted: "The [5G] phone loads instantly when I skip forward, while the [4G one] struggles to buffer in time".

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