THE UK has taken its first faltering steps into the 5G era, as EE launches its service in six cities.
The BBC got in on the action with a live broadcast over 5G from Covent Garden market, imperceptible from a regular TV broadcast and featuring a speed test of 260Mbps - not stellar, but still impressive.
Early reception is likely to be patchy, even in the cities where 5G has been activated (London / Edinburgh / Birmingham / Belfast / Manchester / Cardiff) - we're writing this on the border of Zone 2 and Zone 3 in London and are getting nothing at all yet. Where no 5G signal is available, handsets will revert to a 4G signal.
These speeds are not representative of the full potential of 5G, which is expected to reach 20Gbps speed and < 1ms latency when its all bedded in - but that could be several years away.
Pricing is steep - early adopter steep - with £54/m and £170 up-front being the bottom tier. That's for just 10GB of data, not much for all those lovely 4K movies we're being encouraged to download in a few seconds. Early adopters are going to burn through a lot of out-of-bundle cash.
The spectre of Huawei is never far away, and both EE and Vodafone will be using its equipment in its 5G roll-out. Should a ban on the Chinese firm be announced, the companies may have to rip out the offending equipment and replace it.
On the handset side, Huawei and Honor are missing from the launch line-up, with special 5G versions of devices from OnePlus, Samsung, Oppo and LG filling the void.
All in all, it's a muted launch, showing what's better in the short term, but hiding its full potential, but nevertheless, this is the first day of something truly game-changing, albeit several years before we can fully appreciate it.
Next on the launch pad is Vodafone which launches its pilot in five cities in around a month. EE will be turning on masts in 10 more cities during 2019. μ
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