Is 5G Available in the UK?

5G is the fifth generation of wireless internet technology, promising to revolutionise the way we use our mobile devices. But when will it be fully rolled out in the UK?

Following 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G, 5G is the latest global wireless standard, designed to deliver multi-Gbps speeds and a more efficient service to users; it will allow far more devices to access the network at any one time. Essentially, anything we’re currently able to do on our smartphones will be done much faster and better, with technologies like driverless cars and virtual reality (VR) becoming more mainstream.

So how fast is 5G? Currently, the 4G networks in the UK provide speeds of about 45Mbps on average. 5G is expected to be around 100 times faster than 4G, and achieves these increased speeds by utilising much higher radio frequencies; 28 ghz compared to around 700-2500 mhz for 4G. 5G will also allow many more users within a particular area to access the network. Whereas 4G can support 4,000 devices per square kilometre, 5G will be able to support around a million. If you’ve ever been to a major city during an event and been unable to access 3G or 4G, you’ll understand what an improvement this is. 5G also utilises a new technology called Massive MIMO, or multiple input multiple output, which further improves coverage, speed and capacity. In short – 5G will allow users to do everything they’re currently doing, but faster, and more efficiently.

5G is currently rolling out in the UK, but coverage is incredibly patchy, even in large cities like London, Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff. 5G has been launching in a somewhat staggered manner in the UK since May 2019, but many users have been unable to take advantage even if their network offered 5G, since it requires an updated handset. All of the UK’s major networks currently offer 5G. May 2019 saw EE launch the UK’s first 5G network, quickly followed by Vodaphone in July 2019 and O2 and BT Mobile in October of that year. Sky Mobile launched their 5G network in January 2020, and Three became the last major network to launch the following month. With the launch of Apple’s iPhone 11 models earlier this month, 5G is likely to roll out across the country pretty quickly.