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O2 UK’s Unlimited 5G Mobile Network Goes Live At No Extra Cost

Thursday, October 17th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 3,568

O2 (Telefonica) has today become the last of the four primary UK operators to switch-on a commercial ultrafast 5G based mobile broadband network, which is initially live across several key hubs in busy areas of Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Slough and Leeds. Plus it comes at no extra cost on “Custom Plans.”

In keeping with the approach being taken by their rivals, O2 intends to focus its early 5G deployments around the busiest areas of their launch cities (e.g. busy footfall areas around London Waterloo and Kings Cross; Haymarket in Edinburgh; Trinity Shopping Centre in Leeds; and Belfast South city centre; and busy match-day hotspots around Twickenham and the Emirates Stadium).

The overall aim is then to go live across 20 towns and cities by the end 2019, before extending to a total of 50 by Summer 2020 (additional locations will be added later for the H2 2020 rollout). A tentative list of locations can be found at the bottom of this article.

O2 will initially be limited, much like other operators (except Three UK), to only using a single 40MHz slice of the recently released 3.4GHz band for 5G. Sadly this will make it difficult to deliver on the much hyped Gigabit speeds (mobile broadband), although further radio spectrum bands are due to be auctioned by Ofcom in 2020 and that should help to deliver performance that truly goes beyond the best of today’s 4G+.

Until now O2 hasn’t really given away any information about how much they’ll charge for their new 5G service but all that changed today. The unsurprising news is that you’ll also be able to take advantage of 5G on their recently launched “unlimited data” (Limitless) plans (here) and it comes at no extra cost on their handset focused pay monthly “Custom Plans“.

NOTE: Unlimited data plans on O2 currently cost from £33 per month on their SIM-Only 4G network (18 month term).

O2 also has a special tariff with Oculus (Facebook) and MelodyVR, which using Virtual Reality promises to “transport music lovers from their living rooms to live events around the world.” The tariffs come with a 12 month subscription to MelodyVR and an Oculus Go virtual reality headset.


Customers on O2’s Custom Plans will be able to upgrade to a 5G handset when the time is right for them, although at the time of writing O2 has yet to clarify how much they’ll charge for 5G on their SIM-Only plans or if that will also come at no extra cost. We have asked but didn’t hear back before writing this article.

Mark Evans, CEO of Telefónica UK, said:

“Today is a significant moment for our customers and our business as we switch on the O2 5G network. We’re launching with a range of tariffs that make it easy and fair for customers to access 5G, with flexible plans that cost no more than 4G. We’re also switching on 5G in important parts of towns and cities first, places where it will benefit customers and businesses most.

I believe 5G is going to revolutionise the way people and businesses use mobile connectivity, unlocking huge possibilities for our economy and society. No one in the country has all the answers today, but I’m excited about getting it into the hands of our customers and working with leading partners to help shape the future of 5G for the next generation.”

One important point to note here is that O2 and Vodafone recently extended their joint network sharing agreement to include 5G mobile active equipment, such as radio antennas, on shared network sites across the UK (here). The agreement should ensure a smoother and more rapid rollout for both players, albeit without aggressively impacting competitive differences in other areas (e.g. network performance and related spectrum use).

On top of that we note that Telefonica UK has opted not to go with Huawei for their 5G network and instead they’re predominantly working to deploy the new network alongside Ericsson and Nokia. This may help to keep them safe even if the Government goes nuclear and bans the Chinese technology giant.

At launch O2 will be offering several 5G-enabled devices (Samsung Galaxy S10 5G; Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G; Samsung Galaxy A90 (5G); and the Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 5G), although curiously there’s no mention of any 5G focused mobile broadband or home broadband specific plans or routers. O2 is on record as promoting 5G as an alternative to fixed lines so we’re surprised they haven’t capitalised on that like their rivals.

In addition, customers who purchase the new Apple iPhone 11, Apple iPhone 11 Pro or the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max smartphone on a 90GB, 120GB or Unlimited tariff can claim a £100 off the device cost when they upgrade to the New Apple Smartphone device in 2020.

In total, O2 is now investing over £2m a day in its network and they’ve also added 5G support to their business tariffs.

NOTE: O2’s unlimited data plans apply a soft FUP: “If you regularly use 650GB of data per month or tether 12 or more devices we may consider this to be none permitted use and have the right to move you to a more suitable plan. EU roaming capped at 20GB per month, chargeable at 0.4p per MB afterwards.

O2’s 5G Rollout Plan for 2019 (20 Towns and Cities)

Rollout Plan for Early 2020 to Summer (30 Towns and Cities)
Milton Keynes

Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar eM

    “None permitted use”.
    Much grammar 🙂

  2. Avatar jrhop

    If you look at their SIM only plans, it only seems to be available to the 50GB plan and not on the unlimited one as the article suggests. Maybe this hasnt been updated properly yet. https://www.o2.co.uk/shop/sim-cards/sim-only-deals

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