BT and EE are Aiming to Launch its First Commercial 5G Services Next Year

By Tom Pritchard on at

It may seem like we're quite a long way from enjoying 5G services for ourselves, but if BT gets its way EE's very first first commercial 5G services could start rolling out before the end of next year - a year before government projections had expected the next-gen network to rollout.

This revelation came during BT's latest earnings call, with CEO Gavin Patterson telling analysts "we will look to have a commercial 5G product launched in the next 18 months." The interesting thing here is that not only would this time-frame beat the government's own predictions, it will also mean BT/EE will be launching commercial 5G services before several European operators including Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom. Both of whom have previously committed themselves to a 2020 launch window.

Related: Why Should You Even Care About 5G?

It's hardly surprising that EE is hoping to be the first network to rollout commercial 5G in the UK, especially since it was the first UK network to start offering 4G services to its customers back in 2012. It also has a decent head start on the spectrum side of things, having purchased 40MHz of the 5G-ready 3.4GHz spectrum band during Ofcom's recent spectrum auction.

For those who haven 't followed this story, that's the same amount as O2, only 10MHz behind Vodafone, and in addition to all the other spectrum it owns for 4G, 3G, and 2G services. Before the recent auction EE had 42 per cent of all available spectrum, though naturally those figures will have changed now that more spectrum has been sold off.

No doubt other networks will be taking note of BT's plans, and may even investigate the possibility of accelerating their own 5G rollout plans to stop BT and EE getting too much of a headstart. But as 5G.co.uk notes BT is already in a good position to rollout 5G services, thanks to its previously announced plans to team up with Huawei to live test 5G New Radio and co-development of core 5G network technology and customer premises equipment.

But you also have to remember that the 5G rollout is expected to be much slower than that of 4G (focussing on capacity rather than coverage), so an early start is only going to benefit a relatively small number of people. Then again the quicker they get started, the quicker the overall rollout should be. In theory, anyway. [5G.co.uk via The Inquirer]