16 launch locations for 5G announced by EE

16 November 2018   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester chosen for initial rollout of 5G in 2019.

EE have announced the six major cities to benefit from the initial launch of 5G, with Bristol, Coventry, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield to follow later next year.

However, only the busiest parts of the launch cities will be covered by the 5G switch-on as EE act to increase capacity in areas of greatest demand first.

No dates have been confirmed for launch of service amid concerns over infrastructure development.

ee tablet in city
© EE

Busiest locations in UK targeted in launch

More on EE

Within the six launch cities, the specific areas included in the initial rollout are: Hyde Park in London, the Welsh Assembly, Edinburgh Waverley railway station, Belfast City Airport, the Bullring in Birmingham and Manchester Arena.

These locations represent the busiest areas within the UK's major cities and have been chosen due to the amount of data used by customers.

These 5G rollouts are due to work in tandem with infrastructure upgrades of 3G signals into 4G across many cities included in the 5G launch.

The announcement comes days after EE admitted that rolling out the infrastructure required by 5G has been "challenging" as it made 9 sites live in an East London 5G trial.

EE strategy driven by demand

The 1,500 sites earmarked for upgrading first account for 8% of the EE network but carry 25% of the company's total data.

However, only 15% of the UK population will be impacted by these first upgrades. Locations have been chosen for their capacity to make the most difference to the greatest number of people and businesses.

For example, EE pinpoint Waterloo station as a busy site with more than 2.1 million individual customers connecting to data services in the area during the last three months alone.

What else do we know?

Multiple smartphone partners are expected to take part in the 2019 launch.

However, despite a strong research relationship already existing between EE's parent company BT and Chinese electronics firm Huawei, it remains unclear whether Huawei hardware will be permitted to be used within the new 5G networks amid concerns around security.

Australia and the US have already restricted the use of Huawei components in their networks.

Issues over access for the development and improvement of infrastructure have also been in the headlines recently.

In 2017, the Electronic Communications Code came into force, part of which involves access to privately-owned sites to assess their suitability for communications equipment.

A recent case found in favour of the mobile carrier, but the tensions between them and landowners remain.

Is coverage keeping up with capacity?

EE's CEO has acknowledged that rural customers may feel they're missing out with the current focus on city capacity.

He pointed out that investment in new 4G sites remains a strong priority for the company, with 350 brought on-board in 2018.

Improving 4G coverage in rural areas has been in the news recently due to the publication of a report commissioned by O2 entitled 'The Benefits of Connecting Rural Communities'.

All carriers are committed to improving their reach, with EE themselves targeting connectivity for 95% of the UK's landmass by 2020.

But the launch of 5G for 16 busy city areas in 2019 is a clear statement of intent regarding EE's commitment to inner-city capacity.

It is worth noting that no launch dates have been fixed yet for the 5G rollout in the 6 primary cities - all carriers seem wary to tie themselves to deadlines until the infrastructure is in place.

Find the best deal on a new handset

independent comparison

We are independent of all of the products and services we compare.

fair comparison

We order our comparison tables by price or feature and never by referral revenue.

charity donations and climate positive

We donate at least 5% of our profits to charity, and we have a climate positive workforce.

Get insider tips and the latest offers in our newsletter