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EE 5G was the first UK service to launch with 5G technology. From the start of its 5G rollout in summer 2019 it clearly intended to be seen as being in the box seat for customers wondering what network to choose.
BT now owns EE, of course, and BT Mobile is actually an MVNO working on EE's network. BT's 5G service is now live for customers in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast and presumably will imminently come to EE's other rollout areas.
As part of this, BT has also launched a combined 5G mobile and home broadband plan called BT Halo which offers unlimited data and calls on mobile and at home, something also offered by Vodafone Together.
Although EE wasn't pleased by its share of 5G spectrum the first time around, Ofcom is about to hold a further spectrum auction. As part of this, the big four UK networks have also had to commit to bringing 4G to coverage to a greater percentage of rural areas, too - indeed it could mean that 92 percent of the UK will be covered. The networks won't have to guarantee any particular levels of 5G coverage for the foreseeable future, however, which will have interesting implications for rural areas.
EE recently demonstrated the robustness of its 5G network by streaming a 360-degree augmented reality (AR) Bastille concert from Birmingham New Street station to Edinburgh and Liverpool. Members of the public in the latter two cities could watch the gig on devices provided by EE reps including the Samsung Galaxy Fold 5G and some AR glasses. AR visuals surrounded the band, adding to the experience.
As well as being covered by various media outlets, the stunt wasn't just for fun - the event will be featured in a new brand campaign, by Saatchi & Saatchi which will apparently start in early 2020. Presumably, the campaign will try to further reinforce EE's keenness to be seen as the leader in 5G in the UK.
EE has form for using big-name music stars to promote 5G - it held a gig with Stormzy on the River Thames to promote the launch of its 5G network and, of course, EE also sponsors the Glastonbury Festival each year.
EE 5G cities and towns
EE has launched 5G in 71 UK towns and cities at the moment.
The initial rollout list in Summer 2019 was Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Manchester, Bristol, Leicester and Coventry.
In November and December, EE announced it had switched on 5G in more places across the UK, including Liverpool, Glasgow, Watford and Wolverhampton. 5G has also been switched on in several high footfall places, including Bristol Parkway, Cardiff Castle and London’s Carnaby Street and Camden Market. Hull, Leeds, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Sunderland were also switched on as well as some coverage in Northampton, Stevenage and Wakefield.
In March 2020 the network also added 21 more locations to the 5G network bringing the total to 71. These are Bath, Birkenhead, Bransholme, Bury, Chelmsford, Cheshunt, Clevedon, Clydebank, Dartford, Dinnington, Loughborough, Loughton, North Shields, RochesterMotherwell, Rotherham, Rugeley, Swadlincote, South Shields, Staines and Waltham Cross.
Coverage remains fairly centred on built-up zones in all these areas and it's always worth checking out the EE coverage checker to see how widespread it is.
EE has also been rolling out coverage in some London, Manchester and West Midllands suburbs as well. These include Dudley, Litchfield, Sutton Coldfield and West Bromwich in the West Midlands; Ashton-under-Lyne, Milnrow, Oldham, Rochdale and Salford in Greater Manchester and Chatham, Gillingham, Grays, Kingston-upon-Thames and Romford across Greater London.
5G is also available at the following public transport hotspots in London: Euson, Waterloo, Liverpool Street, Charing Cross, Highbury, Islington, New Cross Gate Overground and Shoreditch High Street Overground. You can also get 5G access in London’s Piccadilly Circus, Clapham Common, and Hampton Court Palace gardens among other places.
Other high footfall locations covered include Cardiff Central station, Glasgow’s Bath Street, Bath's Royal Cresent and Pulteney Bridge as well as Belfast’s Kingspan Stadium.
“We have 5G coverage in more places than any other operator, and remain focused on connecting even more towns and cities in 2020 and beyond to keep our customers connected in the busiest places,” said Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s consumer division, which includes EE.
The full list of everywhere with EE 5G is:
London, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Belfast, Manchester, Cardiff, Bath, Bristol, Chelmsford, Coventry, Leicester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Lichfield, Lisburn, Newcastle, Nottingham, Salford, Sheffield, Sunderland, Wakefield and Wolverhampton
Ashton-under-Lyne, Birkenhead, Bury, Bransholme, Castlereagh, Chatham, Cheshunt, Clevedon, Clifton (Notts), Clydebank, Dartford, Dinnington, Dudley, Grays, Gillingham, Guildford, Hamilton, Hoddesdon, Harlow, Huddersfield, Kimberley, Kingston-upon-Thames, Loughborough, Loughton, Maidstone, Milnrow, Motherwell, Northampton, North Shields, Oldham, Potters Bar, Rochdale, Rochester, Romford, Rotherham, Rugeley (West Midlands), Solihull, South Shields, Staines-upon-Thames, Stevenage, Sutton Coldfield, Swadlincote, Sydenham, Walsall, Waltham Cross, Watford and West Bromwich
EE 5G phones
EE has the best range of 5G phones available from any UK network and we've listed them all for you below along with the best deals currently around. Of course, you'll also need a 5G-ready tariff to go with your new 5G phone.
EE's range of 5G phones are available both online and in store. All these phones are available on EE 5G Smart Plan with unlimited minutes and texts and various amounts of data (including unlimited).
Huawei Mate 20 X 5G
Huawei’s huge 7.2-inch device has finally become available at EE after a slightly strange start - despite previously announcing it, EE then didn't launch its 5G network with it after Huawei's trade ban in the US. However, all has now changed and you can get it with 128GB of storage, 4,200mAh battery and fast 40W charging.
The phone is based around Huawei's own Kirin 980 chipset and Balong 5000 5G modem and is a very good choice for 5G - if you can cope with something quite so big.
LG V50 ThinQ
The V50 ThinQ is a safe choice - certainly in terms of design - and comes in astro black with 128GB of storage. The 6.4-inch screen is beautiful and sharp and everything purrs along thanks to Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 platform and Android 9 Pie.
You can also buy 6.2-inch Dual Screen attachment for the phone that means you can use the V50 ThinQ with two screens - perhaps to have your email open on one screen and a map open on another. It's also great for mobile gaming, too.
OnePlus 7 Pro 5G
A desirable-looking phone, there are two versions of the OnePlus 7 Pro - a standard 4G version as well as this, the 5G version. Both are identical externally but quite different on the inside.
Super fast charging and a pop-up front-facing camera are the headline features on top of the 6.67-inch QHD+ OLED display and a triple camera on the rear boasting a 48 megapixel sensor among its lenses. The best thing is that the 7 Pro is better priced than many of the other handsets here, while boasting super performance thanks to 12GB of memory.
Oppo Reno 5G
Oppo isn't the best-known name in the UK, but the company is investing heavily as it tries to emulate Huawei's success. Oppo actually owns OnePlus (above) and as such this phone has a lot of similarities with the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G.
There are two standout features of this 6.6-inch phone - the 'shark fin' pop-up front camera which raises a large chunk of the top edge of the phone when you take a selfie, and a 10x hybrid zoom lens (5x optical).
It's a very capacious phone, too, with 256GB of storage on board as well as 8GB of memory. It also comes in this attractive ocean green colour.
Samsung A90 5G
EE seems determined to offer a selection of 5G devices to suit all sorts and like its rivals has also taken up the mantle of the A90 5G - a mid-range 5G handset from Samsung. We say mid-range as it's cheaper than the flagship S Series and Note Series below, but the specs here are anything but, with a 6.7-inch display, 48 megapixel main camera, octocore processor and 128GB of storage. For many, this will be the Samsung 5G phone to get - and who can blame them?
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
The S10 5G has lot more in common with the S10+ rather than the standard S10; it's a large-screen 6.7-inch phone powered by Samsung's own octocore Exynos 9820 platform and 5G modem - you may see information the phone uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, but this is US-only.
The standout feature is undoubtedly the quad rear camera (yes, four) with wide, telephoto and ultrawide lenses. As with some of the others here, there's 256GB of storage, too.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G
The Note 10+ 5G is a 6.8-inch version of Samsung’s Galaxy Note series (there's also a non-5G version, too). As usual, it boasts the S Pen stylus that enables you to select, move and use as a remote clicker. It slots into a space at the bottom of the phone but if you don't need it, we'd recommend against getting the Note as you might as well go for the S10 5G above which shares most of the same hardware and camera.
Samsung Galaxy Fold
This is a niche offering, but it's definitely worth noting. This is Samsung's foldable 5G phone, which is available from EE exclusively in the UK (well, as well as from Samsung). It folds out to form a huge 7.3-inch display, while it also has an external display on the front so you can see who's calling - as, of course, when it's folded you can't see the main screen. It really is an immense device - our main gripe being that it's very thick once closed, but as you can see from the cost above, it's very expensive but you do also get a huge 512GB capacity as well as something you'll be desperate to show off.
EE 5G coverage
EE has been working to build out its network across the UK's busiest areas first and, like other networks, has targeted outdoor areas first. It hopes to have 1,500 cell sites live on 5G.
In terms of speeds, we've seen upwards of 400-600Mbps in London, but expect speeds at the lower end of this scale generally. As you'd expect, speeds do remain very variable and you'll notice your phone flipping back to 4G a lot. That's always going to be the case at the moment; as with all the networks, this is the start of a process.
Like the other UK networks, EE uses some Huawei kit in its 3G and 4G network, but it started a process some time ago to remove Huawei gear from its core network and it isn't involved in the 5G core network. The process was started as far back as 2016.
Three and EE work together to share key infrastructure between their networks - masts primarily - and work with Ericsson on this.
However, the recent UK Government ruling on using Huawei gear in 5G networks (capped at 35 percent as with any other so-called "high-risk" vendor) is going to cause BT/EE some challenges. BT CEO Philip Jansen was broadly approving of the restriction being placed upon Huawei during BT's quarterly results call but added that the ruling could cost it as much as £500 million.
"The security of our network is paramount for BT" said Jansen. "We welcome and are supportive of the clarity provided by Government around the use of certain vendors in networks and agree that the priority should be the security of the UK’s communications infrastructure,” he said.
“We are in the process of reviewing the guidance in detail to determine the full impact on our plans and at this time estimate an impact of around £500 million over the next 5 years.”
Presumably, the £500 million cost is due to the additional cost in using other vendors in preference to Huawei, but it could also be because of potential rollout delays. The Financial Times says it could take BT/EE three years to comply with the ruling.
EE doesn't hold as much 5G spectrum as Vodafone and Three currently (40Mhz in the 3.4Ghz band), but this is set to change in 2020 when Ofcom will hold another spectrum auction.
EE has also been trumpeting a RootMetrics survey which compares its coverage very favourably to Vodafone. Again, it's early days for 5G of course so, while EE may have better coverage in the testing locations of London, Birmingham and Cardiff, it's not to say that situation will continue.
RootMetrics’ ‘availability’ measure shows how often devices connected to 5G during download testing across each city:
And in terms of connectivity, RootMetrics also tested this, too. Three quarters of tests in London, on either 4G or 5G, achieved speeds of 50+Mbps, and 60% saw speeds higher than 100+Mbps.
EE 5G deals
EE's business price plans for 5G include unlimited data, anytime upgrade and free Mobile Iron Threat Defense. You can also choose a tailored plan with Business Select. While roaming in Europe is free (though data is subject to a 60GB a month fair use cap), you can add rest of the world roaming or a calling abroad option to make sure the tariff is suitable for your needs.
Three months after launching 5G, EE also announced several Unlimited data plans for consumers, too. The move has to be seen as a reaction to Vodafone parking its tanks on EE's lawn with three unlimited data plans called Unlimited Lite, Unlimited and Unlimited Max plans, all of which are 5G-ready.
However, while Vodafone's are speed restricted (or, rather, the two cheapest tariffs are), EE's don't have any speed restriction. They, are, however, generally more expensive, with SIM-only 5G plans starting at £44 a month for a 5G Smart SIM. That is completely unlimited data, calls and texts.
The deals also come with swappable benefits such as Amazon Prime Video, access to the BT Sport app or a roaming package called Roam Further so you can use your inclusive data in the USA, Australia and elsewhere.
EE 5G broadband
Unlike Three, EE isn't making a massive play of 5G for home broadband but it has launched a service using the HTC 5G Mobile Smart Hub enabling you to share your 5G data for up to 20 users - ideal if you work out of the office as a team, such as at events where decent Wi-Fi coverage can't be assured.
Crucially, it can also be used on battery power, so you can work on your laptop with 5G when you're out and about.
Like many 5G phones, the HTC Hub is based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 platform and runs Android 9 Pie.
The device has a 7-inch display, 30 metre Wi-Fi range and a built-in Gigabit ethernet port. It also has 32GB of storage in addition to a speaker and microphone and can be used for media playback or with other Android apps should you wish.
The hub costs £500 as a standalone device or you can get it from EE with 5G for a upfront fee of £100 with either 50GB of monthly data on a £50 per month, 24-month plan, or with 100GB on a £75 per month.
EE 5G for business
EE offers businesses numerous options including flexible plans so you can swap any of the benefits like roaming, extra data and international calls as you need. You can also upgrade any time you choose.
There's also a data reserve feature so if you do happen to run out of data you won't be left unable to do important work. EE also sends out alerts for mobile security threats, too.
EE's Business SIM-only plans start at £24 a month (ex. VAT) for 20GB of data. That also includes unlimited data and texts.