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5G networks: the latest availability, phones, plans and deals

5G networks
(Image credit: Future)
Complete guide to 5G

(Image credit: Future)

5G technology: how it works
4G vs 5G: how they compare
5G use cases: examples of 5G
5G Dangers: the fact and fiction
5G Internet: will it replace fibre
5G security: the full picture
5G speed: guide and tools
5G deals: get the best offers
5G phones: discover the best
5G stocks: investment tips

5G networks are becoming available to more and more people every day. And whichever 5G network you choose, they all offer something a little bit different. 

The main difference currently is that they all differ in terms of coverage - they're  only covering major cities at the moment and then, the coverage is very patchy in each location.

They also differ in how they're planning on rolling out the next phase of 5G - some are planning on covering as many cities as they can in a short space of time, while others are biding their time in anticipation of wider adoption in 2020.

There's also differences in the technology used, too - while many of the US networks are using the high-speed millimetre wave tech, the UK networks aren't using milometer wave as yet, preferring mid-band networks that promise greater coverage (though don't have the same top speeds). 

In the US, Sprint and T-Mobile are currently in the midst of a much-anticipated but difficult merger, and that's also having an effect on rollout there.

And then, of course, there's the selection of phones. With no 5G iPhone as yet and the need for space to cool the 5G modem and other parts, most 5G phones have two things in common at the moment; they're big and also expensive. 

Expect a better range of 5G phones to come in early 2020, although we've already seen some signs of cheaper devices emerging.

One area a lot of the networks have in common is the selection of phones - especially between the UK networks where the offering is very similar. 

Let's run through each of the key US and UK networks one by one and check out where they are in terms of their 5G availability.

US 5G networks

AT&T 5G

AT&T logo

(Image credit: AT&T)

AT&T's 5G network rollout is not only limited, but it is only offering Samsung's S10 5G at the moment. What's more, it's only available for business customers at present. 

Instead, it has been putting its efforts into "5GE" - essentially some clever branding for 4G LTE Advanced technologies. That's not great because it's confusing for consumers and may backfire long-term. Why would customers upgrade when their phone already says 5G in the top corner? 

The network has a handful of cities covered by mmWave deployments - the best 5G tech in terms of overall speed - and says it will expand to 30 US cities by the end of the year. 

Sprint 5G

(Image credit: Future)

Sprint may not be using mmWave for faster speeds (yet), but its focus on mid-band coverage could pay short term dividends in terms of wider coverage. The network also has a decent selection of phones available.

Speeds shown so far are still decent,  while there are several unlimited plans to choose from that include various extras such as Amazon Prime and Tidal access. 

Sprint will also be providing 5G service to Google Fi in due course as well, though there are some question marks over ongoing rollout. As we said above this is due to Sprint's proposed merger with T-Mobile. 

T-Mobile 5G

(Image credit: T-Mobile)

T-Mobile has rolled out 5G in selected US cities - New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, Cleveland and Atlanta. Like AT&T, it's offering the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G as its sole 5G phone for now although it will also offer the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren shortly in addition to Samsung's Galaxy Note 10+ 5G. 

As we said above there's a cloud over T-Mobile's 5G rollout; a proposed merger with Sprint is undergoing a legal challenge. The merger would give its 5G network a boost since it only has a mmWave network at present - good in urban areas, but offering little prospect of widespread overage. Sprint, on the other hand, boasts low-band spectrum needed for a wider rollout. 

However, if the merger goes ahead it will be costly - the combined company will be forced to sell off some spectrum to Dish to ensure there is still a fourth competitor in the market. 

Verizon 5G

(Image credit: Verizon)

Verizon was the first US network to launch 5G and its mmWave-based network is now live in 15 cities, albeit with very limited coverage in each location. 

The company is planning on launching in another bunch of cities by the end of the year and is targeting much better service in 2020 - it has talked about 50 percent coverage being the aim by late next year. 

Verizon is offering various 5G handsets on unlimited 5G tariffs which normally cost an extra $10 a month but are premium-free for a limited time. 

UK 5G networks

EE 5G

(Image credit: EE)

Probably the furthest ahead of the UK networks, EE has the widest phone offering in the UK. It has initially launched 5G in nine cities at the moment, but 5G will be coming to many more by the end of 2019. 

Both EE's business and consumer 5G plans are available with unlimited data and anytime upgrade. All EE's 5G phones are available on EE 5G Smart Plan with unlimited minutes and texts, too. 

BT Mobile runs as an MVNO on EE's network (BT now owns EE) and has also now launched 5G services in the same locations as EE.

O2 5G

(Image credit: O2)

O2 has also now launched a 5G network and has rolled it out in the UK's capital cities first - London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast in addition to Leeds and Slough (where O2 has offices). It's aiming for around 20 locations by the start of 2020 and 50 by next Summer.

O2 has a very similar selection of handsets to the already-launched Vodafone 5G network. Indeed, it has more than that in common with Vodafone - O2 shares various elements of network infrastructure with it. 

O2 is offering several unlimited tariffs just like the other UK networks.

Three 5G

(Image credit: © Three / Future)

Three is only offering a London-based 5G network at present - and it's all based around home 5G broadband in limited areas. 

The network will be rolling out to a bunch of UK towns and cities in the coming weeks though - we believe Three's main 5G launch will take place during October or November and at that point over 20 locations will be covered. 

Three is already offering four 5G phones so customers can be ready when its 5G network goes live. 



Vodafone 5G

(Image credit: Future)

Vodafone might not have been first to launch 5G in the UK, but it set the cat amongst the pigeons when it revealed unlimited 5G tariffs alongside a 15 city rollout.

While Three has offered unlimited tariffs for a long time, it was something of a departure for one of the big networks - and EE and O2 have now had to follow suit. 

Vodafone clearly wants to position itself as the challenger network to EE (rather than O2) and is also offering a decent selection of 5G phones in addition to a combined home and mobile broadband offering called Vodafone Together.