BT 5G coverage and roll-out

BT has launched 5G in 20 locations. In this document we cover: how to check BT coverage, where BT 5G coverage is rolling out in the coming months and what locations are scheduled to get BT 5G during 2020.

Contents list

  1. BT 5G Coverage
    1. ​BT coverage checker
    2. ​Cities with BT 5G now?
    3. Locations getting 5G next?
    4. Comparison to other networks
  2. BT 4G Coverage
  3. BT 5G Network Speeds
  4. BT's 5G Spectrum

BT 5G Coverage

BT launched its 5G service on Friday 11th October, 2019. It launched in 20 towns and cities on day one, and – unsurprisingly since it owns EE – it should offer 5G coverage in the same places as EE.

However, it’s worth noting that these locations don’t initially have comprehensive 5G coverage. Rather, 5G will be found primarily in places with high population density.

BT has confirmed that it will be switching on 5G in 25 more towns and cities throughout the rest of 2019.

Initially its 5G service is only available to BT Plus customers.

BT coverage checker

BT Mobile has an online coverage checker where you can enter your postcode to view coverage in your area. You can view 5G, 4G, 3G and even 2G coverage.

You should definitely check the 5G coverage in your area before buying a 5G phone or plan, as it won’t initially be available everywhere, even within the cities that have partial coverage.

Coverage checker

Which cities have BT 5G now?

Cities with BT 5G now

Belfast

Birmingham

Bristol

Cardiff

Coventry

Edinburgh

Leicester

London

Manchester

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-

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BT Mobile hasn’t provided a full list of the places its 5G network is available, but as it’s using EE’s infrastructure the locations should be the same. That means the major coverage areas include parts of Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Leicester, London and Manchester.

Those are the major cities with BT 5G coverage, but following in EE’s footsteps the network has also switched 5G on in some smaller locations, including Kingston-upon-Thames, Grays, Romford, Chatham, and Gillingham in the South East, the West Midlands suburbs of Solihull, Dudley, Sutton Coldfield, West Bromwich, and Lichfield, and the Greater Manchester suburbs of Salford, Oldham, Ashton-Under-Lyne, Rochdale, and Milnrow.

What locations will BT 5G roll out to next?

BT has confirmed it will launch 5G in a further 25 towns and cities before the end of 2019. It hasn’t listed them, but based on EE’s plans we know that it should include the following 7:

Cities getting BT 5G in 2019

Glasgow

Hull

Leeds

Liverpool

Newcastle

Nottingham

Sheffield

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As with current coverage areas these locations won’t have complete 5G coverage on day one though.

BT itself hasn’t said much about its 5G plans beyond 2019, but since it’s sharing infrastructure with EE, we only need to look at what that network is doing. EE then has said that it will switch on over 100 5G sites every month, and that in 2020 the following places (likely among others) will get 5G:

Cities getting BT 5G in 2020

Aberdeen

Cambridge

Derby

Gloucester

Peterborough

Plymouth

Portsmouth

Southampton

Wolverhampton

Worcester

plus more locations TBC

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BT Mobile’s coverage in places that already have 5G is sure to improve too, but it might be years before the UK has comprehensive 5G coverage from BT or any other network.

How does BT's 5G coverage compare to the other mobile networks?

There are currently 19 major towns and cities with 5G coverage from at least one UK mobile network. BT 5G coverage is currently available in 9 major locations (along with 11 unlisted smaller ones), Vodafone has 15 locations and Three currently only offers 5G Home Broadband in London.

UK 5G Coverage

City

BT 5G

EE

Vodafone

Three

O2

Belfast

-

-

Birkenhead

-

-

-

Summer 2020

Birmingham

End 2019

Summer 2020

Bristol

End 2019

End of 2019

Bolton

-

-

End 2019

-

Cardiff

End 2019

Coventry

-

-

-

Edinburgh

-

End 2019

Gatwick

-

-

-

-

Glasgow

End 2019

End of 2019

End 2019

Summer 2020

Lancaster

-

-

-

-

Leeds

End 2019

End 2019

-

End 2019

Leicester

-

-

-

Liverpool

End 2019

End of 2019

End 2019

Summer 2020

London

Manchester

End 2019

Summer 2020

Newbury

-

-

-

Summer 2020

Plymouth

2020

2020

-

Summer 2020

Stoke-on-Trent

-

-

-

End of 2019

Wolverhampton

2020

2020

End 2019

Summer 2020

Coverage Checker

Check Coverage

Check Coverage

Check Coverage

Check Coverage

Check Coverage

BT 4G Coverage

If you’re not in a 5G coverage area then you can still use your phone even on a 5G plan, you’ll simply access 4G or 3G, just like you would have been doing for years before 5G arrived.

You can see an overview of BT’s 4G coverage and that of other networks below.

UK 4G Coverage (2019)

Network

4G population coverage

EE (BT)

>99% (check coverage)

Three

99.8% (check coverage)

Vodafone

99% (check coverage)

O2

99% (check coverage)

Check BT Coverage

BT 5G Network Speeds

5G is much faster and lower latency than 4G. As for exactly how fast BT’s is, that remains to be seen, but it’s likely to be similar to EE’s, which we have some data on.

EE says that for now its 5G users should expect speeds that are around 100-150Mbps faster than 4G on average. That means you’re probably looking at typical speeds of roughly 130Mbps – 240Mbps. At the top end though speeds on EE 5G can supposedly exceed 1Gbps. So assuming BT’s speeds are similar, you can expect the 5G experience to be very fast.

Having said that, in an Opensignal report covering the period of April-September 2019, it was found that the top 5G speeds on any UK network were 599Mbps, so don’t count on breaking the 1Gbps barrier for a while.

Latency

We don’t know how low BT’s 5G latency is yet, but in theory latency on 5G can be as little as around 1 millisecond (ms).

That’s a big improvement on the 40-50ms typically seen on 4G, and could be hugely beneficial, as latency is how long a network takes to even respond to a request – so a high latency can hold things up even with superfast data.

EE for its part has said to expect an almost “instant connection” – though we wouldn’t expect anything as low as 1ms just yet.

BT’s 5G Spectrum

5G frequency soectrum

BT shares EE’s 5G spectrum, which you can see an overview of in the chart above (credit: Three).

Note that the line at 100MHz is there because this is the amount of contiguous 5G spectrum required for ‘true’ 5G according to the ITU (the global standards body on 5G technology).

But there will be time for EE/BT to build on their total, as Ofcom plans to auction spectrum in the 700MHz and 3.6GHz – 3.8GHz bands as well probably as the 8GHz and 26GHz bands at some point. And there might be more auctions in other bands too, with Ofcom set to discuss possibilities at WRC-19.

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