5G to hit 16 UK cities in 2019, switching on in the busiest locations across London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester as phase one of launch
UK mobile network, EE, has stated it is switching on 5G sites in 16 UK cities in 2019. The first launch cities will be the UK’s four capital cities – London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast – and Birmingham and Manchester.
BT Group owned telco, EE, is building 5G in the busiest parts of the six launch cites, including Hyde Park in London, Manchester Arena, Belfast City Airport, the Welsh Assembly, Edinburgh Waverly train station and Birmingham’s Bullring, where the power of 5G technology can make a difference by providing a more reliable data connection to business and consumer customers.
As well as the six launch cities, throughout 2019 EE will also be introducing 5G across the busiest parts of ten more UK cities: Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry and Bristol.
EE will launch with multiple smartphone partners, as well as an EE 5G Home router with external antenna, to showcase the power of 5G for broadband.
The BT Technology team is virtualising elements of the core network for 5G rollout in 2019, and is building a next generation 5G core in line with the next stage of global 5G standards, with virtualised network functions on a cloud native infrastructure, creating the basis for a smart and fully converged agile network. The BT 21CN backbone network is Petabit-class, and will ensure the future-proofed scale required to enable a world-leading 5G experience.
Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer division, said: “Adding 5G to the UK’s number one 4G network will increase reliability, increase speeds, and keep our customers connected where they need it most. This is another milestone for the UK and for our network journey; we’ll keep evolving as we move to one, smart network for our customers. We have an ambition to connect our customers to 4G, 5G or WiFi 100% of the time.”
Last week EE announced that nine 5G trial sites went live across East London. The trial has so far encompassed every element of building a new 5G network, from obtaining planning permission and access agreements, through to managing power outputs. The trial will go on to assess the customer experience of new 5G spectrum.
Howard Watson, BT CTIO, said: “Deploying this brand new layer of our EE mobile network is far from straightforward, and this trial has helped us to understand – and learn how to overcome – the significant challenges that we’ll face in the coming years. We’re also learning about the coverage we can achieve with 5G New Radio on our new 3.4GHz spectrum, both indoors and in densely cluttered streets.”
Upgrading 4G was often made easier by being able to repurpose existing antennas, but new equipment at each site is essential to 5G. The trial has highlighted the following key challenges when deploying 5G: rooftop sites often need significant strengthening to carry the new 50kg 5G antennas, and some sites house three of these; the level of upgrade work required can cause delays in obtaining planning permission, and can necessitate repeat visits, which means multiple access requests to landlords; location for 5G antennas can be dictated by the need to stay below regulated power output levels.
The 5G rollout strategy is determined by the number of business and consumer customers the EE network connects in busy places, and the amount of data those customers use. For example, in the last three months alone, more than 2.1 million individual customers connected around Waterloo station, with just one site at the station carrying more than 100 terabytes of data per day.
The first 1,500 sites that EE is upgrading to 5G in 2019 carry 25% of all data across the whole network, but only cover 15% of the UK population. EE is upgrading to 5G where it can make the biggest difference to the most people.
EE is upgrading transmission to 10Gbps links at each 5G site, and has tested the new links – the fastest in use anywhere in the UK – at its trial sites in Canary Wharf and across East London.
EE is still upgrading 4G sites as part of its overall network strategy, while turning 3G signal into 4G to enable more spectrum for a better network experience. The busiest sites will have five carriers of 4G spectrum supporting the new 5G spectrum, making them the highest speed sites of any UK operator in 2019.
As well as increasing capacity, EE is expanding 4G coverage into rural parts of the UK to give rural communities the coverage and capacity that they need. EE has built more than 350 brand new sites in 2018 alone.