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BT and EE Aim for UK Launch of Commercial 5G Mobile in 2019

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018 (4:06 pm) - Score 2,933

The next generation of ultrafast 5G based Mobile Broadband technology might launch sooner than expected in the United Kingdom after the CEO of BT Group, Gavin Patterson, said that their mobile division (EE) could have a “commercial product launched in the next 18 months.”

At present most people, including telecoms regulator Ofcom, have been expecting that the first commercial services wouldn’t begin wide-scale deployment in the United Kingdom until mid to late 2020. One of the primary reasons for that is because much of the necessary radio spectrum (e.g. 3.4GHz, 700MHz etc.) won’t have been fully released and cleared until that year.

Nevertheless the official standard should be completed by early 2019 and so it might in theory be possible to begin the ground work on a limited early deployment ahead of 2020. At the same time there’s always the possibility that Ofcom’s programme of spectrum clearance might complete ahead of schedule or that they could re-purpose an existing band for use with 5G (EE previously gained a big advantage when the regulator enabled them to launch 4G in the 1800MHz band).

Gavin Patterson said:

“In mobile, we will continue to build 4G to 95% geographic coverage by 2020 and intend to lead the market to 5G, looking to have a commercial product launched within the next 18 months. We’ve already secured 3.4 gigahertz spectrum for 5G, and plan to participate in the 700 megahertz auction.”

However, launching 5G early could have some pros and cons, not least due to the lack of mature hardware both on the customer and network side. It’s probably fairly safe to predict that early 5G kit, particularly Smartphones, will also be battery hogs just like early 4G and 3G kit were.

Plus if it’s anything like prior upgrades then initial services won’t be dramatically faster than the best 4G has to offer (LTE-Advanced networks are already into Gigabit speeds). In reality 18 months would also put such a launch right at the very tail end of 2019, which would still leave the major work to take place during 2020 anyway.

On the other hand there will no doubt be a marketing advantage to delivering 5G before rivals, although this rather assumes that EE’s opponents won’t respond. At present Three UK could actually be one of the best positioned to launch a commercial 5G service early, which is thanks to all the favourable spectrum they gobbled when acquiring UK Broadband Ltd.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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18 Responses
  1. dave says:

    5G is supposed to use less power than 4G, not sure why you think it will be a battery hog. Also qualcomm will have 10nm chips ready soon so it isn’t as though the first ones will use old 28nm nodes.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      History is the reason, chips are always getting smaller and more efficient but so too are the demands we place upon them. It always seems to be the case that with each new generation (3G, 4G etc.) you would tend to see early kit suck more battery than the last generation, at least until the silicon became more refined.

      All the early 3G and 4G mobiles I’ve had suffered this.Happy to be proven wrong with 5G but only when I see practical evidence on commercial mobiles and not before.

  2. GNewton says:

    Good to hear EE will only by 1 year behind Estonia with their 5G efforts.

    1. New_Londoner says:

      So Estonia is deploying non-standard “5G” kit then? Does this matter?

    2. FibreFred says:

      Always a positive comment from Mr Newton

    3. GNewton says:

      New_Londoner: They did indeed run some trials before the final standard, though the actual deployment will of course follow the standard. You can find out more at

      https://www.zdnet.com/article/why-estonia-finds-itself-in-the-middle-of-a-5g-arms-race/

    4. CarlT says:

      It can’t be healthy being this cantankerous all the time.

    5. CarlT says:

      Incidentally you really ought to read the things you link. That article was written in the past week and says this: ‘All three telcos in Estonia are testing 5G, hoping to bring the latest generation of mobile technology to the first consumers in the Baltic state by the end of next year.’

      So the same timescale EE are looking at.

  3. Robert Scriven says:

    Can see it now 5G with 500MB data limit £50 a month.

    Extra data £20 a GB

    1. Chris P says:

      If that’s what your paying now then maybe switch to 3 or someone that does unlimited data, calls and texts from just £34 pm.

      http://www.three.co.uk/Store/SIM/Plans_for_phones?id=1401&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIlL6a0d2J2wIVxYXVCh0FpwZ5EAAYASAAEgLRM_D_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds&aidset=1

      It’s a lot of data to consume on a handset.

    2. Mike says:

      I wonder whether Three will make 4G free for existing contract customers or require new (more expensive for most) contracts.

    3. Mike says:

      5G*

  4. Skyrocket says:

    Will Plusnet (EE) will fow suit to become 5G?

    1. Skyrocket says:

      Follow

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      Good question. If Plusnet were just a regular MVNO then I’d say that they probably wouldn’t expect to see 5G tariffs until roughly a year or two after the primary operators have begun their commercial deployments (Resellers and MVNOs usually have to wait a bit longer).

      However, with Plusnet they are obviously a sibling of the BT / EE merger, which means that they might in theory be able to get access before other MVNOs. Mind you it took awhile before they even got TV or Mobile solutions at all, so it’s hard to say. We also don’t know how much of a success (or not) Mobile has actually been for them specifically.

    3. occasionally factual says:

      Given Plusnet do not have access to the full 4G signals that EE could provide, I would suggest a big fat NO.

  5. Max Allanson says:

    With regards to power usage, that may be true. But we’re in a different world not, the smartphone market is an order of magnitude bigger than when 4G came online, and investment into everything surrounding smartphones has skyrocketed. For example, Apple are moving towards making all their own power IC’s and radio chips (they’re not quite there yet), so I would imagine that things will be more efficient this time around. It’s hard to imagine Apple launching an iPhone with anything other than marginally worse battery on 5G.

    1. Max Allanson says:

      Sorry, bad typos…: different world now* and *anything less than marginally..

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