5G in the UK review: A first look at the new superfast EE 5G network

EE’S 5G network goes live today, though I’ve had preview access to it for a week.

I had been warned that speeds might not be as fast as when the network officially launches, but overall, it is impressive.

Here’s the verdict.

Time trials

Although speeds varied in tests across London, in Covent Garden, for instance, I found a highly respectable 4G speed of 100Mbps (megabits per second) on my iPhone.

But when I switched to a 5G phone, the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, which is the first out-of-the-box 5G-ready phone, that leaped to 420Mbps. 

As a point of comparison, my home broadband maxes out at under 20Mbps.  

OnePlus 7 Pro 5G is the first available 5G phone to buy in the UK (OnePlus)

How to stream it

On the OnePlus phone the effect of the fast speeds was striking: streaming video is already possible on 4G or 3G even but without the highest connection speeds video can buffer, images can break up and launching the video in the first place can mean a bit of a wait. 

On 5G, video playback began near instantly at high-quality resolution. It was smooth and consistent, with no sudden pauses or image interference. 

EE managed to achieve 500Mbps speeds in St Paul’s, in central London (EE)

Faster, better, stronger

As well as high speeds, 5G promises low latency — that is, the pause between you instructing your phone to send data of some kind and the data being sent is very short. This matters if you’re playing a game against someone on another phone. 

Mass appeal

When the 4G network launched it was super-fast at the beginning, when only early adopters were using it. But as a critical mass of handsets came on stream things slowed down.

EE says one of the big benefits of the new network is much greater capacity, so streaming video at a busy place such as Waterloo station, for instance, shouldn’t be an issue.

What’s next?

Apps such as Uber and Netflix would not work without the fast connection 4G offers. Swifter speeds and greater network capacity could yield a similar step change in the variety of tomorrow’s apps.

It could also mean an end to running out of space on your phone, as more data is held in the cloud rather than on the device. 

People with poor home broadband speeds may even ditch the landline for a 5G router — they will be released soon. 

More 5G phones are coming: EE has handsets from Oppo, LG and Samsung as well as OnePlus, while Vodafone will launch on July 3 with Samsung and Xiaomi phones.

Other brands will have 5G phones later in the year, though the iPhone is rumoured to switch to 5G compatibility from next year. 


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