We knew this day was coming soon but it has finally arrived – O2 has launched its 5G network. Initially available in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Slough and Leeds, it will be expanding to 20 towns and cities (so 14 additional ones) by the end of 2019.
Ambitiously, O2 plans to have 5G in 50 towns and cities by summer 2020, but note that it won’t offer blanket coverage in these locations on day one. As with rival networks, O2 is initially focused on busy areas, like London Waterloo, and Haymarket in Edinburgh. So make sure to check coverage before opting for a 5G plan.
Not that there’s much to lose by opting for one now, as O2 is charging the same as it does for 4G equivalents, and it’s offering an unlimited data 5G plan, so you’ll be able to make the most of all that speed.
Mark Evans, CEO, 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.”
If you’re already an O2 customer on a Refresh plan you can also move to a 5G plan whenever you want, so there’s really no reason to wait. Though you will of course need a 5G phone, with O2 currently offering the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, Samsung Galaxy A90 5G, and Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 5G.
VR and business
While standard 5G plans come at no extra cost, the network has also launched slightly pricier plans that come with an Oculus Go 32GB virtual reality headset and a 12-month subscription to MelodyVR, giving you all the tools you need to access gigs and other music experiences in VR – which is the sort of thing we’re expecting 5G to really help with.
O2 is also making 5G available to businesses, with a ‘no premium’ 5G Access bolt-on that can be added to existing subscriptions.
O2 is the last of the four main UK networks to launch a 5G service (as well as landing behind BT Mobile) – though it has beaten Three to offering 5G on phones, as currently that network only offers 5G home broadband. That will change soon though, and we’d expect coverage and competition to really ramp up as the networks aim for an early lead.