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O2 to launch 5G network in October

Customers in 20 towns and cities around the UK will be able to access O2’s 5G network by Christmas 2019

O2 has confirmed it will launch its 5G mobile network in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, London and Slough in October 2019, with key locations in a further 14 towns and cities around the UK due to come online by Christmas, and a further 30 by summer 2020.

The last of the four UK mobile network operators to commit to a 5G launch – EE and Vodafone are already live and Three will launch its network as a home broadband service at first in August – O2 said it was more important to have a fully developed offering than to be first to market.

It has devised an “intelligence-led” 5G roll-out strategy that will focus on where people will most need 5G, with key locations including mainline rail stations, shopping centres and entertainment and sports venues, including The O2 and Twickenham Stadium.

“5G is going to be a game changer for our country. Whether it’s for people or businesses, the power of this next-generation network is going to unlock a world of possibilities for our economy and society,” said Mark Evans, CEO of O2 parent Telefónica UK.

“As we switch on our network across the country, our intelligence-led roll-out prioritises the key areas in towns and cities first – the places where our customers need, and will use, 5G the most. We’re also giving our customers maximum flexibility with our industry-leading custom plans, letting people adopt 5G at a time that’s right for them.”

Telecoms analyst Paolo Pescatore, of PP Insight, commented: “O2 will finally join the 5G party. This feels somewhat forced upon in light of moves by the other mobile operators.

“Though O2 will be the last to offer 5G services, it is still early days as the network is not widely available.

“The UK will be one of the first countries in the world to have all mobile operators offering 5G connectivity”
Paolo Pescatore, PP Insight

“The move is good in the interests of the UK and it will be one of the first countries in the world to have all mobile operators offering 5G connectivity.”

O2 will make two handsets available initially – the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and the Xiaomi Mix 3 5G – and customers who sign up will still be able to take advantage of the operator’s flexible custom tariff plans, which it has credited for its market-leading rate of churn; 0.9% for the first six months of 2019.

O2 also revealed details of its 5G for business strategy as it prepares to launch a new business-to-business unit called O2 Business on 1 August. This will consolidate its business activity across enterprise and wholesale partners, bringing together product development around the internet of things (IoT), data and 5G, alongside enterprise and wholesale sales and commercial teams.

It is already working on 5G with a number of customers, including Northumbrian Water, which is testing 5G smart sensors to monitor water quality and tackle leaks, and is equipping its engineers with 5G-enabled augmented reality headsets to access instructions and manuals in the field; and Network Rail, which is exploring how to guarantee ultrafast mobile connectivity along the UK’s rail network.

The operator will also be opening 5G innovation spaces inside its existing Wayra accelerator hubs to offer next-generation testing environments to startups and scale-up businesses alike.

Read more about 5G

  • 5G’s high frequency can handle more capacity, but the signal can’t penetrate buildings easily. That’s why you may need to install a 5G small cell in your office.
  • Edge computing and 5G combine with the rapid expansion of IoT devices to open up a world of new possibilities. StorMagic’s Bruce Kornfeld advises administrators to add 5G to their IoT plans now.
  • In addition to high speeds and low latency, the emergence of 5G cellular technology could put pressure on the market prices of incumbent WAN connectivity.

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