5G is 18 months away, says EE Chief Executive

By Sarah Wray 26 February 2018

5G is coming

5G is probably “18 months or so” away, Marc Allera, Chief Executive Officer of EE, part of the BT Group, told CNBC at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona this week.

He noted: “There’s a lot to get right in the ecosystem,” citing challenges still to overcome around network equipment, spectrum and devices, as well as applications and services.

At Mobile World Congress this year, 5G is one of the hottest topics, even more so than last year. However, Allera tempered the excitement, saying: “It’s still some way away.”

Despite the EE boss’s caution in the face of MWC hype, 18 months from now would still be ahead of the UK government’s projected commercial roll-out for 5G in the UK.

Countries such as South Korea, China, Japan and the US are touting launches as early as later this year or next. However, the UK’s 5G strategy doesn’t have commercial rollout of 5G in the UK pegged to begin until 2020.

Will EE lead on 5G in the UK?

EE’s comments make some sense though, because if any network is going to get a launch under way ahead of schedule it’s likely to be EE, as it has more widespread 4G coverage than rivals.

That’s in part because it has more spectrum than rivals as well, with 45% of the immediately usable spectrum. The downside to that is that there will be some restrictions placed on EE at the upcoming 5G spectrum auction, but it’s so far ahead now that it’s likely to still have the most spectrum when the dust has settled.

And EE has put a real focus on speed with its 4G network – something that suggests it would be very interested in rapidly rolling out a 5G network.

There’s plenty of evidence to show EE is working towards 5G too, as it has already announced various 5G projects.

Many of these are, again, focused on speed, including an impressive achievement of 2.8Gbps download speeds in a 5G lab test and 750Mbps out in the real world. All that, and EE also has the wealth and experience of BT backing it up.

A step closer?

In November, a spokesperson for EE told 5G.co.uk:  "We’re aiming to launch a commercially available 5G service around 2020, and the technology will evolve from there – just as 4G has evolved massively since launch here in 2012.”

Based on Allera’s comments, that could be edging slightly closer still.

Useful read: How fast is 5G?

Image credit: Shutterstock

About Sarah Wray

Technical Writer at 5G.co.uk

Sarah Wray is a technical writer with over 10 years' experience writing about technology, including telecoms, smart cities, data, IoT, aerospace, and more.

View more posts by Sarah Wray >>>

EE set to broadcast the EE Wembley Cup Final live over 5G

EE and BT Sport will demonstrate the capabilities of 5G broadcasting with the EE...

EE will launch 5G in 16 cities in 2019 and we know which ones

EE has announced which UK cities will be the first to get upgraded to its 5G service.

EE pushes more 5G trial sites live and shares findings so far

EE has extended its live 5G trials in London, launching nine additional sites in...

EE’s CEO shows off first live 5G trial network on video

EE has set up the UK’s first live 5G trial network, and the company’s CEO has...

EE brings first live 5G trial to the UK with Canary Wharf trial

EE has launched a live 5G trial in Canary Wharf, bringing 5G to the UK for the first...