5G has arrived in the UK, and it’s fast

EE today became the first 5G network in the United Kingdom in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester. 5G connectivity is now available in limited parts of these cities, more than a month before rival Vodafone plans to launch its own 5G service. Today I went out into the streets of London to try 5G, armed with a OnePlus 7 Pro 5G headset. I'm impressed with the first results.

While 5G coverage has been extremely limited with Verizon's 5G network in the US. UU., It's a completely different story in London. EE has focused its initial coverage on the most popular tourist destinations in London, including areas such as San Pablo, Covent Garden, Soho, The Strand, Tower Bridge and London Bridge. Today I visited several different locations and performed speed tests against the 4G and 5G networks in the USA.

Now, I know that these 5G networks are not being fully used now, but the average speeds were still a 10x improvement over what I was seeing in 4G. I would say that the average I was seeing was around 200 Mbps in 5G, compared to around 25 Mbps in 4G in the same place. I did not have to stop at a very precise place to get a 5G signal most of the time, and I was able to walk freely on The Strand, towards Covent Garden and even to Charing Cross station in London while it was continuously connected to 5G. The best speed that I recorded in this area was approximately 510 Mbps, near the popular Covent Garden area during the peak lunch hour.

5g has arrived in the uk and its fast

5G on the streets of London.

Most of my tests were done outside, but I even managed to test the 5G signal inside a lunch spot and the Charing Cross station. Within a Pret a Manger, it had an average of around 60 Mbps, compared to 200 Mbps outside the building. But inside the Charing Cross station, I saw speeds of 200 Mbps. I even took a train from Charing Cross station to the London Bridge, and the 5G signal was kept for part of the trip between Waterloo East and away from the bridge. London. Even with the train moving, it constantly reached speeds higher than 200 Mbps, and at a time when it was moving slowly, this jumped to 980 Mbps.

The worst part of this current 5G implementation is that the loading speeds They are the same as the 4G at this time. The maximum I reached during my tests was 33 Mbps, which is far from the 200 Mbps average lowered. That's the most disappointing aspect of the 5G EE network for me so far, along with the limited coverage. EE promises to add 100 cell sites per month and download speeds should be between 100 and 150 Mbps faster at 5G than at 4G. However, there is no promise as to the loading speed.

Today I could only test the network for a few hours, but that was enough to drain the 50 percent phone battery to nothing alone in the speed tests alone, using a mix of the Fast application and the Oksla Speedtest application . I'm planning to spend next week testing this 5G network in several places and also getting a good idea of ​​latency. The promise of 5G is not just about bandwidth improvements; It is also about latency improvements for activities such as the transmission of games from the cloud.

Just like using a 1 Gbps connection at home, it is difficult to measure the benefits of 5G at this time. Yes, everything loads naturally faster, but I feel like I'm using a really good Wi-Fi connection. The most practical benefit I noticed immediately was being able to stream HDR 1440p content through YouTube and easily clean any section of the video instantly. These little things are what counts in the short term, but applications and services have been created to cache and balance the load with great care for years. That means that not all services have the ability to fulfill your connection and transfer data as fast as your device can handle.

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5G at the Covent Garden in London.

While many people are skeptical about why 980 Mbps speeds are needed in a phone, the practical advantages are far-reaching. If we can achieve reliable gigabit speeds in 5G networks, this opens up the possibility of new applications, streaming content in the 4K cloud and above, streaming games in the cloud, augmented reality games beyond reality Minecraft Earth and much more. Everything is talked about, from your dishwasher to a lamp post connected up to 5G, but the short-term practical benefits will allow you to work reliably anywhere.

It allows the use of 3G to share photos and some video transmissions and calls, and 4G made this even faster and the video transmission much more reliable. 5G promises to deliver significantly faster speeds and much lower latency. We are in the early stages of the 5G deployments at this time, in what has become a silly race. But like any technology, it will improve over time. 5G in the UK will initially be launched at frequencies below 6 GHz, which are good for greater coverage, but do not have all the benefits that 5G promises. Higher frequencies allow more bandwidth to be passed to the devices, but operate at a shorter distance, and radio waves can not easily penetrate the walls and objects between you and the 5G antenna.

This will be a particular challenge once 5G in the UK moves into the millimeter wave spectrum (mmWave). This promises much better speeds than I've tried today, but with the challenges of shorter transmission ranges that can be complicated when there is no direct line of sight and interference from walls, buildings or even rain.

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Leaving aside the radio waves, the other 5G challenge will be the operators and their data prices. Prices for 5G EE plans start at £ 54 ($ 68) per month for 10GB of data, increasing to £ 74 ($ 93) per month for 120GB. With faster speeds, it's much easier to be tempted to use a 5G connection with your laptop and start downloading more data as you would in a home fiber connection. Realistically, you could use 120 GB of data in minutes, which makes 5G a costly bet for early users.

The first 5G users will also have a very limited choice of phones. EE is launching with OnePlus' 7 Pro 5G as the exclusive phone for about a week. OnePlus has been working closely with EE to optimize its phone for the new 5G network, and although the 5G phone looks and feels exactly like a OnePlus 7 Pro, the company has worked a lot internally to improve the antenna layout.

The Samsung S10 5G, the Oppo Reno 5G and the LG V50 ThinQ will also be available in June. Mate 20 X 5G Huawei has not yet reached the list, as EE has stopped the launch after Google withdrew the Android license of the company in response to a ban by the US government. UU We are still waiting to see many more devices enabled for 5G, and it seems that Apple will not bring 5G to the iPhone until next year.

Obviously, it's the first days for 5G both in the US UU As in the UK, but I am planning to spend a week trying out what is possible to have a better idea of ​​what we can really expect from 5G in a busy city like London. Check back next week to see the results.

Photograph by Tom Warren / The Verge

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