With 5G now widely available, it’s worth upgrading to if you haven’t done so already, but if you’re still using an old 4G handset then there are a few changes you need to make.
You probably already know that you’ll need a 5G phone and a 5G plan to make use of it. But those two steps are simple, since most plans now come with 5G as standard, and a huge number of smartphones now support 5G as well. But do you also need a new 5G SIM card?
This guide will answer that question, so you’ll have all the information you need to get started with 5G.
Do I need a new SIM card to connect to a 5G network?
The short answer to that question is that is depends. In most cases you won’t – you can just keep using your old SIM card and it will connect to a 5G network if paired with a 5G plan and device, but there are exceptions to that.
Every SIM card on EE, Three and Vodafone is 5G-ready, which means that even if you’ve had a SIM card on one of those networks for a long time you shouldn’t need to switch it out for a new 5G one – and any SIM card you get from those networks now will support 5G as standard.
However, oddly this isn’t true of O2, with the network claiming that you will need a new 5G SIM card to access 5G on its network.
The good news is that O2 has been providing 5G SIM cards with its 5G phones as standard since October 17th, 2019, but if you have an older SIM card from the network then it might be a 4G one.
£5.00 a month
12 month contract
£5.00 a month
1 month contract
£7.00 a month
1 month contract
Data Rollover & Worldwide Roaming
What about MVNOs?
On BT Mobile, all SIM cards sold since September 1st, 2020, are 5G ready.
All other 5G MVNOs appear to support 5G as standard on their SIM cards.
What about eSIMs?
An eSIM is an embedded SIM that’s built into a phone, so if you have a 5G phone then its eSIM is guaranteed to support 5G no matter which network you’re on (as long as you also have a 5G plan), since there's no way to switch to a new physical eSIM.
So in other words, you won’t need a new eSIM for 5G, you just need to make sure you have a 5G device and plan, as usual.
For more information on eSIMs on specific networks, check out our EE eSIM guide, our O2 eSIM guide, and our Three eSIM guide.
How can I tell if my SIM card supports 5G?
As noted above, all SIM cards from Three, EE and Vodafone - along with most MVNOs - should support 5G, so if you’re on one of those networks your SIM card almost certainly will.
If in doubt and you have access to a 5G phone and plan, just put the SIM card in, make sure you’re in a 5G area (you can check a network’s 5G coverage to confirm this) and then see if the word ‘5G’ appears in the status bar. If so then your SIM card supports 5G, if not then it probably doesn’t – though it’s worth walking around a bit to be sure, in case you’re just in a 5G blackspot.
If you’re still unsure or don’t have the means to test, give your network a call and they can advise you.