2019 is the year of the 5G launch, and so far O2 has been the only major network not to reveal the plan for its own 5G rollout - barring a few teases here and there. But, surprise! O2's 5G goes live today, and what's more it won't be charging people extra for the privilege.
The benefit of being with O2 so far is that it offers complete flexibility if you want it, and that lets you customise things like contract length, data allowance, upfront payments, and so on. Throwing 5G into the mix isn't changing any of that, and the network has promised the resulting new plans won't cost more than their 4G equivalent. A bit like Three, but with better coverage and flexibility.
Sadly, though, 5G handsets tend to cost more, so if you get one of them on contract you're probably going to be paying a little bit extra as a result.
O2's network isn't getting a huge rollout, but it will be available in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Leeds, and its hometown of Slough. The plan is also to switch on the network "where it's needed most", and by that O2 means busy areas with lots of foot traffic. London Waterloo, Kings Cross, Edinburgh Haymarket, Trinity Shopping Centre in Leeds, Belfast South city centre, Twickenham, and the Emirates stadium are all mentioned on the press release.
The goal is also to launch 5G in 20 towns and cities by the end of the year, and 50 by next summer. Which towns and cities isn't clear yet.
Mark Evans, CEO, Telefónica UK, said:
“Today is a significant moment for our customers and our business as we switch on the O2 5G network. We’re launching with a range of tariffs that make it easy and fair for customers to access 5G, with flexible plans that cost no more than 4G. We’re also switching on 5G in important parts of towns and cities first, places where it will benefit customers and businesses most.
“I believe 5G is going to revolutionise the way people and businesses use mobile connectivity, unlocking huge possibilities for our economy and society. No one in the country has all the answers today, but I’m excited about getting it into the hands of our customers and working with leading partners to help shape the future of 5G for the next generation.”
Currently O2 offers five 5G handsets: Samsung Galaxy S10 5G; Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G; Samsung Galaxy A90 (5G); and the Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 5G. 5G subscribers will also get a 12 month subscription to Melody VR and a free Oculus Go VR headset, so you can enjoy musical performances at home right there in virtual reality.