EE readies 5G for six UK cities in 2019

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EE has earmarked six UK cities for its 5G launch and promised commercial devices will be ready for the network going live next year.

The operator is looking to cover the busiest parts of London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and Birmingham, across airports and train stations, shopping centres and tourist destinations.

The network will be widened to busy areas in a further 10 cities by the end of 2019.

Transmission will be upgraded at each of the 5G sites to 10GBps. Trials have already been held at Canary Wharf and across 10 sites in east London.

EE is in the midst of a network upgrade to prepare itself for the 5G launch. The first 1,500 sites that will be 5G ready carry a quarter of its data but only cover 15 percent of the UK's population.

It is also virtualise aspects of its core network, building a 5G standards-compatible core and virtualised network functions on cloud native hardware.

The operator said its BT 21CN backbone network is petabit-class, which it said would futureproof it for upcoming 5G demand.

Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer division, said: “Adding 5G to the UK’s number one 4G network will increase reliability, increase speeds, and keep our customers connected where they need it most.

"This is another milestone for the UK and for our network journey – we’ll keep evolving as we move to one, smart network for our customers. We have an ambition to connect our customers to 4G, 5G or Wi-Fi 100 percent of the time.”

The operator is experiencing ongoing high demand for its LTE network. It said in the last three months, more than 2.1 million customers connected around Waterloo station in central London. One site at the station carries more than 100TB of data per day.