5G is the next generation of mobile networking, offering the fastest speeds so far. Plenty of people are already using 5G, replacing earlier options such as 3G and 4G, and you might be considering making the switch to get more from your mobile devices. When you’re not using WiFi, you need a strong connection so that you can still use various online apps and services, especially with the huge range of features you can find on today’s mobile phone and other devices.
5G offers faster speeds than previous networking options, making it possible to do things like stream video and audio much more easily. It also has a greater capacity, meaning that the network can handle more devices in one area. So even if you’re attending a busy event, where many people are using the network at once, you should still get excellent service. The faster, stronger network makes it easier to do so many things while out and about or whenever you’re not connected to WiFi, from streaming to internet calls. Average 5G speeds can be around four times as fast as 4G.
Who Should Get 5G?
Anyone can benefit from the faster speeds that are offered by 5G, but there might be some people who find it more useful than others. If you are someone who does a lot of streaming while out and about or not connected to WiFi, 5G could be really useful for you. Its faster speeds mean you can load an episode of your favourite show or stream music without annoying buffering or other problems. It’s also useful for people who like online gaming on their phone or other devices, as well as anyone who sends large files, whether it’s for work or personal business.
If you’re a big phone user, you often go over your data limit or you’re dissatisfied with the speeds that you get from 3G or 4G, switching to 5G could be a smart choice. Because you need to have a 5G-ready phone, it’s smart to make the switch when you’re already considering getting a new phone (unless your phone is already 5G-compatible). With some affordable unlimited data plans available for 5G, you could save money each month by getting a 5G phone and SIM.
Where Can You Get 5G?
The rollout of 5G started in 2019, initially offered through EE and Vodafone. It is still expanding, having first been offered in major cities and now being rolled out to other cities and towns. There is now a great choice of 5G plans from different providers, so you can find one that suits you. Where exactly you will be able to get 5G depends on which network you choose. All providers now offer a fairly extensive coverage area but some already offer theirs in more locations than others.
If you want to find out whether a particular mobile network provider offers 5G in your area and whether you can get good coverage up and down the country, you can use their coverage checker. All providers have one of these on their website, showing you on a map where you can get the best coverage and which areas might not be covered. This can help you to determine if you will get 5G at home, at work, or anywhere else that you might need it.
Which 5G Network Is Best for Coverage?
As 5G only started rolling out in 2019, we’re still waiting for it to be available everywhere. Therefore, some networks offer a wider 5G coverage than others. Three currently has 5G available in more than 154 locations in the UK, which means that it offers more 5G coverage than the other major networks.
EE and BT Mobile share network infrastructure, which means that anywhere you can get EE, you can also get BT Mobile. Their 5G network coverage is available in 125 towns and cities throughout the UK, which is more than any other network. If you’re in a major city or town, you’re likely to be able to get 5G from EE or BT. Meanwhile, O2 has at least 108 locations across the UK where 5G is available.
Vodafone 5G is available in 100 UK locations, as well as almost 200 locations across Germany, Spain, Ireland, and Italy. In total, that gives them more coverage than others, but it’s most useful for anyone travelling in the EU because it offers roaming on 5G, whereas other networks don’t.
Can You Use 5G When Going Abroad?
When you’re travelling, you might want to use 5G for roaming. One thing to keep in mind is whether the network provider that you choose offers roaming as part of their plans or if you need to purchase it as an extra. Other countries are also upgrading their mobile network infrastructure, so 5G is available in various places, including several countries in the EU and in the US. Some networks might cap the amount of data you can use when you’re travelling. Vodafone and VOXI (which uses Vodafone infrastructure) were the first to offer 5G roaming. Other networks offer roaming on their plans but not for 5G, so customers will be using 4G or 3G instead, depending on what is available.
Which 5G Network Is Fastest?
The exact speeds that you will be able to enjoy with 5G depend on a few factors, including where you are and which network you’re using. 5G speeds have been tested by a couple of market intelligence organizations, including Point Topic and RootMetrics. The speeds that have been obtained differ but not always by large amounts. Another thing to keep in mind is that speeds have been tested in certain conditions so might differ in other circumstances. For example, RootMetrics mostly tested speeds in London, and they might be different elsewhere.
According to speed tests from Point Topic, EE offers the fastest 5G speeds of 753Mbps. However, RootMetrics obtained a much lower speed of 488.4Mbps when testing in London. Their tests showed that Vodafone had the fastest speeds in London of 545.6Mbps. These are the maximum speeds that these groups have been able to obtain, rather than the average speeds. When looking at average UK-wide speeds, Three offers the fastest download speeds.
Which 5G Network Is Cheapest?
Comparing 5G network costs is another way to find the right option for your needs. The cost of 5G is going to depend on the overall mobile package that you choose, which will also include airtime minutes and texts. However, with many plans offering unlimited calls and texts, it’s often the data (and the phone itself) that makes the biggest difference to prices. To get a clear idea of how much 5G costs on each network, it’s a good idea to look at SIM-only deals, which removes the cost of any devices from the equation. Of course, how much data you’re looking for also makes a difference.
Some of the most affordable SIM-only deals can be found with Three, Virgin Mobile, O2, and Giffgaff. For smaller amounts of data, you can get 5GB per month for only £5. On the other end of the scale, O2 will give you 100GB for £15 per month. Some options for unlimited 5G are also available from providers such as Three (starting from £16 per month) and Virgin Mobile (£24 per month with data rollover).
Which Networks Offer 5G?
5G is available on a range of networks and providers. There are several major networks with their own infrastructure, plus “mobile virtual network operators” (MVNOs) that use one of these core networks to provide their services.
The big networks are:
The MVNOs and the core networks that they use are:
- BT (EE)
- Sky Mobile (O2)
- Tesco Mobile (O2)
- Giffgaff (O2)
- VOXI (Vodafone)
- Virgin Mobile (Vodafone)
5G will also soon be available from more mobile providers, including 1p Mobile (using EE), SMARTY (using the Three network), and iD Mobile (also using Three).
UK’s Best 5G Networks Compared
If you’re unsure about which 5G network might be right for you, here’s a rundown of each of the providers currently available in the UK and what they could offer you. Remember to also take a look at what else the network has to offer, such as coverage for calls, if you’re concerned about more than just data.
EE is the largest mobile operator in the UK and is a result of the merging of Orange and T-Mobile. It’s part of the BT Group (not to be confused with BT Mobile, although BT Mobile uses the same infrastructure) and offers a broad range of 5G coverage across the UK. After Three, it offers 5G coverage in more places than other networks.
EE offers fast speeds for 5G, plus some extra perks too. Their Smart Benefits let you choose from extras such as Apple Music, Apple TV, and BT Sport. Check their coverage here to see if they offer 5G in your area.
BT Mobile makes use of the same network infrastructure as EE. That means they also have great coverage and similar speeds. They offer various saving options and extras, including Family SIM, which allows you to manage up to five SIMs on one account and get a 20% discount for each extra SIM.
If you’re a BT Broadband customer, you also get £5 off each month. Some plans include the BT Sport app too. Check if BT 5G is in your area using their coverage checker.
Three currently has the largest coverage across the UK, beating out EE and BT Mobile by a couple of dozen locations. It also offers decent speeds and low prices compared to other providers. Three also offers 5G home broadband. All their SIMs are 5G-ready and they have a range of pay monthly and pay as you go SIMs. They offer international roaming on their advanced monthly plans and have options for unlimited data. You can check their coverage on their website.
Vodafone has unlimited data plans to use with 5G, including extras such as YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime, and Spotify. They also offer 100 UK to EU minutes on some of their unlimited data plans. The network offers pretty speedy 5G and they often have various deals and offers too.
Use the network status checker from Vodafone to find out if you can get 5G from them in your area.
O2 has some cheaper deals that include 5G data. They won Best Network Coverage from Uswitch in 2020 and they have already rolled out 5G in more than 100 locations. The O2 coverage checker will tell you where it’s available. O2 has a range of unlimited data packages and they also have various perks and offers. They offer extra services such as Disney+, Audible, Amazon Prime, McAfee security, and the Calm meditation app. They also offer rewards and access to their Priority customer loyalty programme, as well as the ability to create custom plans to suit your needs.
Sky Mobile uses the O2 network – you can find out if they’re available in your area by checking your postcode. Their SIM-only deals include data rollover each month (for up to three years) and unlimited streaming on Sky apps. You can change your plan to meet your needs whenever you want to. If you want to switch to Sky Mobile, it’s easy to do it by text.
Tesco Mobile also uses the O2 network infrastructure to provide their services, giving you good coverage across the UK. Use the coverage checker from Tesco Mobile to check if you can get 5G from them. If you have a Tesco Clubcard, you can use your points to get money off a 5G phone. Families enjoy perks from Tesco Mobile too, with options to get extra Clubcard points, free data, extra minutes, and savings on your bill. Their 5G SIM deals start from £10 a month, with 8GB of data, and an unlimited data option is available.
Giffgaff is another provider offering the same coverage as O2. Check their coverage here. Their “goody bag” plans offer a range of options with plenty of flexibility so that you can change when you want to. They have a choice of “golden goody bags” that are 5G-ready, from 9GB of data to unlimited data, with 1GB of extra data on the plans that aren’t unlimited. EU roaming is included with their plans too, and there’s no need for a contract, which is a strong benefit.
VOXI is based on the Vodafone network. Their plans generally offer a large amount of data, starting from 12GB up to 45GB, and with an unlimited data SIM available too. Additionally, you also get “endless video” and “endless social media”, allowing you to stream and use social media without using up your data. Unlimited calls and texts are provided too, as well as unlimited EU roaming. Their no-contract deals mean it’s flexible too and you can change your plan at any time. Use their coverage map to find out if you can get 5G from VOXI.
Another provider on the Vodafone network, Virgin Mobile is available in 100 towns and cities across the UK. Visit their website to input your postcode and find out if they offer coverage for your town. You can get deals such as extra data and discounts from Virgin Mobile, as well as unlimited minutes and texts. Their SIM-only plans start at 3GB of data per month for £6, going up to unlimited data. A Family Plan is available for customers of Virgin broadband or TV, saving £2 per month on up to four SIMs after the first and offering other benefits too.
Which Phones Are 5G Compatible?
To get 5G on your phone, the phone has to be compatible with 5G. Only newer phones are compatible, so you might need to buy a new phone when you switch to a 5G SIM and plan. You could buy the phone outright and get a SIM-only deal on your plan or you could pick a pay-monthly contract that includes a phone. As 5G continues to be rolled out and new phones are released, more and more phones will be compatible with 5G, so keep an eye out for which ones support it.
Here are some of the mobile phones that are compatible with 5G that you can purchase right now:
- Samsung: Galaxy S21/S21 Ultra/S21 Plus 5G, Galaxy S20/S20 Plus/S20 Ultra 5G, Galaxy A32 5G, Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G, Galaxy Z Flip 5G, Galaxy Z Fold2 5G, Galaxy A52 5G
- Apple: iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max
- Google: Pixel 5 5G, Pixel 4a 5G
- Motorola: Moto G 5G Plus, Razr 5G, One 5G, Moto Edge 5G
- Huawei: P40/P40 Pro 5G, P40 Lite 5G
- OPPO: Find X2 Lite, Find X2 Pro, Reno4 5G, Reno4 Z 5G, Reno4 Pro 5G, Find X3 Lite 5G, Find X3 Neo 5G, Find X3 Pro 5G
- Sony: Xperia 5 II 5G, Xperia 1 II
- TCL 10 5G
- Mi 11
- OnePlus: Nord, 8/8 Pro
- Lenovo Legion Phone Duel
- Nubia Red Magic 5G
- Nokia 8.3 5G
- Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T
Watch out for more phones that are compatible with 5G if you’re thinking about buying a new phone soon. As 5G becomes more widely available, you will see more phones set up for 5G. Eventually, it should be the default for mobile phones to be 5G-compatible.
Is 5G More Expensive Than 4G?
If you’re thinking about cost, you will probably want to know if you have to pay more for 5G. Most of the time plans with 5G are going to be more expensive than 4G. What’s more, you could end up paying more for a phone that’s compatible with 5G, as these are phones that are newer to the market. However, it’s important to remember that you get what you pay for. When you pay a little more to use 5G, you get much faster speeds and a better online experience.
Another important thing to remember is that it won’t be long before 5G is more widely available and more phones will be compatible with 5G. Both 5G phones and 5G plans will become more affordable and 5G is rolled out in more places and more people start to use it. As new 5G-compatible phones are released, the phones that are currently available will become more affordable. You also have a range of network providers to choose from, in addition to many different plans that are available. Finding an option that fits your budget could be easier than you think, whether you’re looking for a SIM-only deal or you want to buy a 5G phone on contract at the same time.
What You Need to Get 5G
When you’ve decided to switch to using 5G, there are a few things that you’ll need. Firstly, make sure that you have a phone that is compatible with 5G, such as the options listed above. You can also use 5G as a broadband alternative at home or a mobile internet option, such as the 5G home broadband offered by Three.
When you have a phone that works with 5G, you need a SIM card and a data plan with 5G. All SIMs are ready for 5G, so you shouldn’t need a special card to get started. However, you might be sent a new SIM when you order a new phone or if you decide to use a different network than the one you currently use.
As 5G becomes more common, it can be useful for even more purposes. In rural areas, it can be a useful alternative to broadband and it might also be used for the Internet of Things too. As people buy more and more smart technology for their homes and businesses, 5G could be useful for everything from smart fridges to self-driving cars. In addition to being excellent for personal use, it’s also good for businesses to use in a variety of ways, including in offices, warehouses or for travelling business people.