O2 5G coverage and roll-out

O2 coverage

O2 has revealed that it will switch on its 5G service in October 2019, making it the last of the main four UK networks to offer 5G.

 However, the network came out of the first 5G spectrum auction with more winnings than any rival, putting it in a strong early position for 5G.

Read on for full details of O2’s planned 5G coverage, spectrum holdings, and more.

Coverage

O2 doesn’t have 5G coverage anywhere yet, but it will do from October. Here’s a breakdown of everything we know about its coverage plans.

Which cities will have O2 5G at launch?

At launch you’ll be able to get O2 5G in parts of:

  • Belfast
  • Cardiff
  • Edinburgh
  • Leeds
  • London
  • Slough

What locations will get O2 5G next?

O2 has said that in addition to the 6 launch locations above, by the end of 2019 it will have brought 5G to the following 14 places:

  • Blackpool
  • Bournemouth
  • Bristol
  • Coventry
  • Derby
  • Eton
  • Guildford
  • Leicester
  • Lisburn
  • Norwich
  • Nottingham
  • Reading
  • Stoke
  • Windsor

Which other locations are scheduled to get O2 5G?

O2 has even revealed that it plans to bring 5G to 30 more places by summer 2020, for a total of 50 locations in all. Of those 30, it has named 23, which are as follows:

  • Aberdeen
  • Bradford
  • Brighton
  • Birkenhead
  • Birmingham
  • Cambridge
  • Glasgow
  • Hove
  • Kingston
  • Liverpool
  • Luton
  • Manchester
  • Milton Keynes
  • Newbury
  • Newcastle
  • Northampton
  • Plymouth
  • Portsmouth
  • Sheffield
  • Southampton
  • Sunderland
  • Warrington
  • Wolverhampton

Beyond that, we’d expect it will mostly be large towns and cities that get 5G coverage initially, with smaller and more rural locations getting it later. We’d also expect coverage to expand rapidly in places that already have partial 5G coverage.

How do I check O2 5G coverage?

O2 has an online coverage checker where you’ll be able to see 5G coverage. Simply enter your postcode or town to see coverage in your area. This is definitely worth doing, as O2 5G won’t initially be available everywhere, even within cities that have some 5G coverage.

You can also see 4G, 3G and 2G coverage on this page, with a breakdown of indoor and outdoor coverage.

How does O2's 5G coverage compare to the other mobile networks?

At the time of writing O2 doesn’t have any 5G coverage, putting it behind EE and Vodafone, which both have some already, and Three, which is set to launch 5G in August.

However, O2 may quickly catch up with these networks, as its roll out plans sound ambitious, with 20 locations set to get 5G by the end of 2019 and 50 set to get O2 5G by summer 2020. That compares to 22 by the end of 2019 on Vodafone, 16 by the end of 2019 on EE (with 10 more currently confirmed for 2020), and 25 by the end of 2019 on Three.

You can see details of the 5G launch locations for each network below – note that this list of cities only includes places that at least one network offered 5G in on day one, and doesn't include places where no network yet has 5G. For more complete lists, check each networks’ full coverage page (or scroll up for O2’s).

5G confirmed launch comparison

Cities

EE

Vodafone

Three

O2

Belfast

Launched

2020

2020

October

Birmingham

Launched

Launched

2019

2020

Bristol

2019

Launched

2019

2019

Cardiff

Launched

Launched

2019

October

Edinburgh

Launched

2020

2019

October

Glasgow

2019

Launched

2019

2020

Liverpool

2019

Launched

2019

2020

London

Launched

Launched

August

October

Manchester

Launched

Launched

2019

2020

If your location is not listed in the table above use the coverage checker to find out more.

What happens if I’m not in a 5G coverage area?

If you’re not in a 5G coverage area then you’ll get 4G or 3G speeds, just like you would have before 5G. You can find an overview of where O2 stands on that front below.

4G coverage / comparison

O2 has around 99% UK population coverage with 4G, 3G and 2G, which is comparable with rivals. Check out the chart below for a 4G coverage comparison between O2 and the other main UK networks, based on the latest available data.

Network

4G population coverage

EE

>99%

Three

99.8%

Vodafone

99%

O2

99%

5G roaming abroad

O2 hasn’t yet said where or if it will initially offer 5G roaming abroad – stay tuned for updates.

Speed and latency

5G is much faster than 4G. We don’t yet know exactly how fast O2’s 5G will be, but you can find general details about 5G speeds below.

Current speeds

Typical early 5G speeds are generally around 150-250Mbps, so that’s what we’d expect from O2. But top speeds may be a lot higher – EE has already claimed its 5G speeds can exceed 1Gbps, while Three claims its top speeds might double rivals.

To put this into perspective, O2’s 4G download speeds average just 15.8Mbps according to an April 2019 report from OpenSignal. So you can expect 5G to give you an enormous boost.

Future speeds

The speeds mentioned above are just the start, as 5G is expected to get faster over time, especially as it becomes ‘standalone’ rather than relying on a mix of old and new technologies.

Some estimates have put future 5G speeds at over 10Gbps, which would make for an even bigger difference than the difference between 4G and today’s 5G.

Latency

Latency - measured in milliseconds (ms) - is how long a mobile network takes to respond to a request before it even starts properly transferring data. On 4G networks latency is often around 40-50ms, but on 5G it could get as low as 1ms.

This will benefit all sorts of things, including online gaming, loading streamed videos, and excitingly could also help allow for new use cases.

O2 spectrum

O2 won 40MHz of 3.4GHz spectrum at Ofcom’s 5G spectrum auction, paying £317,720,000. Its 40MHz of 3.4GHz spectrum covered the 3500MHz – 3540MHz part of the band and the amount it acquired is more than Three and equal to EE, with only Vodafone acquiring more in this band.

But O2 also won all 40MHz of the 2.3GHz spectrum that was being auctioned, at a cost of £205,896,000. The 2.3GHz spectrum is immediately useable, while the 3.4GHz band will be useful for 5G.

Immediately useable spectrum

3.4GHz held

3.4GHz allocation

Total spectrum held

126MHz

40MHz

3500-3540Mhz

166MHz

Note: 'Immediately useable spectrum' refers to spectrum in various bands that can be used now for 4G, 3G and 2G. O2 holds spectrum in the 800MHz, 900MHz, 1.8GHz, 2.1GHz and 2.3GHz bands.

These combined winnings almost double O2’s total spectrum holdings, though some networks still have more.

However, there’s set to be more 5G spectrum auctions, with spectrum in the 3.6GHz - 3.8GHz bands and the 700MHz band planned for release, followed potentially by spectrum in other bands, which Ofcom will discuss at WRC-19, so O2 will have the chance to increase its holdings.

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