EE will be the first to offer a 5G smartphone

12 December 2018   By Jo Bailey

EE announce a partnership with Chinese smartphone manufacturer OnePlus to bring the world's first 5G smartphone to the UK.

With the race to be the first to offer 5G functionality, EE have taken the lead as they announce that they will launch the UK's first 5G smartphone next year.

The UK network provider has agreed a deal with Chinese firm OnePlus to launch their 5G phone in May next year, making this not only the UK's first 5G smartphone, but also the first in the world.

Other operators are also working on 5G smartphones, including Samsung and Huawei. Existing smartphones will not be capable of connecting to the faster, fifth generation network.

In the US, Verizon and AT&T have both planned to release Samsung's 5G smartphone at some point next year. Apple are also working on a 5G phone but are not expecting to release it before 2020.

ee store front
Credit: Ink Drop/

What can we expect from the first 5G smartphone?

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The OnePlus 5G smartphone doesn't have a name yet but is under development as we speak. CEO of the company, Pete Lau, commented on the price point, saying, that it would be 'priced without profit in mind'.

He said that although 5G components are more expensive to make, winning the race to be the first to offer a 5G smartphone meant the company was prepared to pay the price.

The design and capability of the phone is being kept tightly under wraps, although a few small details have been released.

Lau said that the OnePlus 5G phone would have a glass frame, a fingerprint scanner and a 'teardrop' shaped notch, much like the current phones on offer from this manufacturer.

The company haven't confirmed the price for the phone yet either, but speculators are pitching it at around the £600 mark.

Where's getting 5G first?

EE have already announced that they plan to switch on 5G in key UK cities first. These are London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester. Ten additional cities will get 5G in 2019.

These additional ten cities are Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry and Bristol.

EE have said that, although these 16 sites will only cover 15% of the UK's population, they expect them to carry 25% of the data.

The network operator has also said that they expect to charge customers 'a little bit more' to use the 5G service over its 4G offering. How much that will translate to remains to be seen.

In the meantime, EE are still working on network improvements to make 5G a reality. Despite problems at their 5G test sites in London, they are confident in rolling out the technology next year.

They are also improving network speeds for the rest of us, turning more 3G sites into 4G.

Is a 5G upgrade worth it?

Although it's exciting that the UK will be leading the way in 5G capabilities, the reality is that it's unlikely to become a widespread standard for at least another year.

Where you can get 5G, there is the potential for speeds of up to 1GB, meaning a movie could be downloaded in just a minute. However, there is still much testing to be done before the real potential for 5G can be realised.

Even the CEO of OnePlus has said they don't expect their 5G smartphone to be a big seller, saying it's more for demonstration of their advanced technology than anything else.

Lau has said that the handset will have limited appeal due to the pricing necessary to cover their costs, and the fact that 5G will not be particularly widespread at the point of launch.

He speculated that although 5G will be available next year, it will be 2020 before we see the technology really start to take off.

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