BT launches 5G services, plans in U.K.

Next month, BT Mobile is debuting a combined 5G mobile and home broadband unlimited plan called BT Halo. (Getty Images)

BT today launched 5G services across more than 20 towns and cities in the U.K., riding on BT-owned mobile operator EE’s network.

EE turned on commercial 5G services in Britain in May, and BT’s service rollout includes existing EE 5G locations. 5G on BT Mobile is now available in parts of Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Leicester, London, and Manchester, with plans to expand to additional cities by year-end.

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BT Mobile is initially offering 5G service to its BT Plus broadband customers, who subscribe to both home and mobile packages.  Customers can choose from four data plans ranging from 13 GB to 200 GB, starting around $50 per month. Next month, the company is debuting a combined 5G mobile and home broadband unlimited plan called BT Halo, which customers on the current 200 GB plan will be moved over to.

BT Mobile’s 5G uses 3.4 GHz spectrum, and requires a compatible device. The mobile brand is offering a range of handsets including the Samsung Note 10 5G, Galaxy S10 5G, OnePlus 7 Pro, Huawei Mate 20 X 5G, and Oppo Reno 5G.

The carrier said 5G service has the potential to hit peak gigabit speeds, but that customers should expect an average speed increase of about 150 Mbps.

In addition to EE, rival Vodafone U.K .also launched its 5G network in Britain this summer, initially starting with seven major cities.

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Telefónica-owned British mobile operator O2 in late July said it would roll out 5G services in select areas of Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Slough, and Leeds in October, but an official launch as not yet happened. The operator said its network would hit 20 towns and cities by the end of 2019 and expand to 30 additional locations by next summer.

To speed up and help reduce the cost of rolling out 5G, Vodafone and O2 inked an earlier network sharing agreement that it includes sharing 5G gear, such as radio equipment on joint sites across the U.K. 

Like EE, O2 is using spectrum in the 3.4 GHz band, which the operator won last year at the U.K’.s 5G spectrum auction for  EUR 318 million ($354 million).

U.K operator Three, meanwhile, has touted its millimeter wave spectrum assets, claiming it has twice as much 5G spectrum as its closest competitor. Three promised to rollout 5G fixed wireless home broadband services and mobile 5G across 25 markets this year.