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O2 Criticism – EE Defends Plan to Launch UK 5G Mobile in 2019

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018 (1:07 pm) - Score 8,994

Mobile operator EE has today rejected criticism from rival O2, which claimed that their plan to become the first in the UK to launch a commercial 5G mobile network would only result in a “lite” version of the future ultrafast mobile broadband technology (i.e. missing key features).

The situation began earlier this month after the CEO of BT Group, Gavin Patterson, promised (here) that EE would “lead the market to 5G” by “looking to have a commercial product launched within the next 18 months” (i.e. by the end of 2019). This is well ahead of the late (H2) 2020 period, when most of the major operators are expected to begin their commercial rollouts.

Meanwhile the national regulator, Ofcom, has previously said that much of the 5G targeted radio spectrum bands (3.6GHz+, 700MHz etc.) may not be completely ready for commercial use until sometime in 2020, which is also true for other EU member states. Likewise we don’t yet know how much commercial grade hardware will be ready to support the final 5G standard in 2019 (both for the network and consumers).

A Spokesperson for O2 UK said (5G.co.uk):

“It’s likely that there will be a lite version of 5G launched [in the UK] prior to 2020. Any UK operator launching ‘5G’ before 2020 would be using a ‘lite version’ of 5G.

Everyone in the world (including O2 in the UK) is expected to deploy 5G using a ‘non-standalone’ architecture to start with but it’s the ‘standalone’ version which comes after that and will offer the complete 5G experience.

Effectively this means that a 5G launch before 2020 will lack certain capabilities (e.g. super low latency, vehicle communications for autonomous driving, enhanced security).”

However a spokesperson for EE told ISPreview.co.uk that they expect 5G to “evolve massively after its launch, which we’re targeting for 2019” and this “will be real 5G with 5G devices“.

In fairness a lot of network operators may have trouble delivering key features, such as sub-5ms latency, in time for the real-world at launch, albeit with the possible exception of fixed wireless broadband links for home and business connectivity.

A Spokesperson for EE told ISPreview.co.uk:

“4G also evolved from launch to where we are now – we launched with 10MHz of spectrum, and now many of our sites have 65MHz live, so streaming and downloading is a totally different experience today – from a maximum of 50Mbps, to speeds in excess of 400Mbps. And we introduced 4G Calling to the UK in 2016 – before that, voice calls were carried on 2G and 3G. All generations of mobile technology evolve from launch – there’s nothing different about 5G in that respect, and there’s no need for confusing terms like ‘5G Lite’.

5G, at launch, will be another significant step forward in the way consumers experience mobile broadband – lower latency than 4G and more capacity for users to share. And it will evolve over time to see more capacity, even lower latency, the ability to connect billions of devices, and the network slicing capability that opens up vertical markets and new applications.

We’ve always been clear to our technical audience that we’re launching with non-standalone 5G, based on 3GPP Release 15 Option 3. And we’ll be very clear with customers about the capabilities of our 5G at launch, and as we introduce new features that enable new experiences.”

At this point it’s worth casting your minds back to the early launch of 4G services, which initially weren’t much faster than the best that 3G (HSPA) networks had to offer. Similarly LTE-Advanced (4G) technologies are already pushing peak network speeds into Gigabit territory and it will be interesting to see how much faster the early 5G services are in a real world environment.

Lest we forget that there are also some very real limitations that come into play outside of urban areas, where end-users might often only be covered by lower frequency mobile spectrum bands (e.g. 700MHz). In these areas it’s hard to see how 5G will push miles ahead of 4G performance, at least until more of the existing spectrum is re-purposed to support it.

Whatever the outcome, we’re excited to see what emerges between late 2019 and 2020.

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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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16 Responses
  1. Tim says:

    Funny coming from O2 who still don’t have LTE+ (LTE-A) and therefore are only offering a “lite” version of 4G

    1. JohnSmith says:

      I agree with you

    2. Alan says:

      EE’s must also be a ‘lite’ version of LTE if as they claim it can only manage around the 400Mbps down mark.

    3. Mark Jackson says:

      No they’ve had Carrier Aggregation for a long time and make use of it across their bands.

    4. Alan says:

      Yeah O2 have had LTE-Advanced since 2016. No idea where he got his information.

      Also a bit confused about EE being proud of its “4G calling” Three beat them to the punch with the rollout out of that (proper name being VoLTE) and dubbed it “4G Super-Voice” back near the beginning of 2016. The others followed suit from trials mid’ish 2016.

    5. Tim says:

      If O2 do indeed have 4G+/LTE-A then can you confirm what the bands and channel widths used? Also where is the UK do they have coverage of this, London only?

    6. Alan says:

      Ill do better than that for you

      Freq Band Type Class

      900 MHz 8 UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+ 3G
      2,100 MHz 1 UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+ 3G
      800 MHz 20 LTE/LTE Advanced 4G/4G+
      1,800 MHz 3 LTE/LTE Advanced 4G/4G+
      2,100 MHz 1 LTE/LTE Advanced 4G/4G+

      They also have 2,300 MHz, band 40, for the single band TD-LTE/LTE Advanced option

    7. Tim says:


      Ok but where is this coverage available?

      I’ve never seen the 4G+/LTE-A logo on my phone so can only assume nowhere I’ve been.

      You forgot to say what bandwidth they use.

      EE use 20Mhz but O2 only seem to do 10Mhz. So O2 LTE-A with 2 carrier LTE-A would still only bee the same speed as EE’s single carrier (20Mhz) standard LTE.

    8. Alan says:

      “Ok but where is this coverage available?”

      Nationwide as you have already been told by the site author and myself.

      “I’ve never seen the 4G+/LTE-A logo on my phone so can only assume nowhere I’ve been.”

      What model of phone are you using?

      You forgot to say what bandwidth they use.

      EE use 20Mhz but O2 only seem to do 10Mhz. So O2 LTE-A with 2 carrier LTE-A would still only bee the same speed as EE’s single carrier (20Mhz) standard LTE.

      You forgot to ask for which Band/Frequency and to begin with did not think it existed at all on O2……… Now at least you know it does from that, though you obviously did from the start and just wanted to bash O2 and make EE look better, something you are still attempting. Sorry but Company sock puppets i have little time for.

  2. Phil says:


    “Effectively this means that a 5G launch before 2020 will lack certain capabilities (e.g. super low latency, vehicle communications for autonomous driving, enhanced security).”

    So what is the point of launching the service if 5G is essentially performing like 4G, or likely a lot worse due to patchy coverage and higher frequencies being blocked left right and centre and little in the way of devices that support it. Oh and no voice calls either no doubt.

    We know what it is about, driving upgrade sales, PR and marketing. It perpetuates the need to replace handsets every 12 months or so in order to gain access to the faster speeds and features that were promised by the next generation, but not delivered on for 12 or 24 months.

    By all means have some pilot schemes and test cities, but don’t try launching before the specifications are ratified and hardware is available.

    5G stands to be the most hyped version of a new generation of mobile technology to not delivery anywhere near the PR and hype we will hear about it. Handsets will need to be plugged in constantly as battery life will be terrible, the radios will be constantly trying to amplify weak 5G signals at frequencies high enough to vanish as soon as the customer wraps their hand around their device, and scanning dozens of frequencies, as well as radios scanning 4G for handover as well as 3G and 2G for fall back and voice calls. What a mash up.



  3. Drvkumar says:


    1. paulS says:

      I LOVE CAP LOCKS!!!!!

    2. Simon says:

      lol really? 16mbps wow!

      I get 250-300mbps on my EE contract and handset – that’s like MEGA best?

  4. Mml says:

    Whatever you might think of O2, I do think their criticism is constructive. And all EE says in response is, “it will be real 5G with real devices” – purely marketing guy’s talk, not a tech guy’s talk. Let’s not forget how they launched their 4G with American bands, and iPhone 5 that worked with their 4G doesn’t work with others to this day (to be fair, Three added support later, but others didn’t).

    1. Alan says:

      EE via their MVNO’s do not even supply the full bands/speeds on current “4G” services so anything that some office bod in PR has to say about 5G is pretty moot.

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