The UK’s second biggest mobile phone operator has revealed it will roll out its 5G network in October this year.
The super-fast service for O2 customers will be switched on in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London first, with 20 towns and cities able to use 5G on the network from 2019.
O2's announcement was made less than two months after EE unveiled the UK's first 5G network, initially covering the four capital cities plus Birmingham and Manchester.
Mark Evans, chief executive of Telefónica UK – O2’s parent company – said: “5G rollout will be prioritised in the areas where customers need the network the most, such as transport hubs and venues.
“Alongside O2’s work to build a 5G economy in partnership with British industry, we continue to focus on improving 4G mobile network connectivity as one of the UK’s most powerful opportunities to strengthen the economy and improve the lives of British people.”
Some of the first sites it will be available include Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, Twickenham and Slough train station – not far from O2’s head office.
The news comes as the company revealed revenues in the UK jumped 5.1% in the year to £2.98 billion with underlying profits, the company’s preferred measure, up 6.4% to £919 million in the six months to June 30.
Bosses revealed that the O2 network was used by 33.3 million customers in the period, including via its services available on giffgaff, Tesco Mobile, Sky Mobile and Lycamobile. O2’s direct customer numbers is 25.4 million, the company added.
The number of customers in the UK on phone contracts has fallen in recent years, with users preferring to buy expensive handsets outright, before buying a sim card.
But O2 said net contract sign-ups were 41,000 in the period, accounting for 67% of its total mobile base. By comparison, there were more pre-pay sign-ups – with a net increase of 45,000.
On Wednesday, O2 also revealed a partnership with Vodafone to share masts and antennas to speed up their respective 5G rollouts and take on bigger rival EE.
- What is 5G and what difference will it make?
5G is the next generation of mobile data communications, with mobile internet speeds potentially several times greater than that of 4G.
Until now, 4G has been the fastest data network so, naturally, 5G is the upgrade.
It’s difficult to say exactly how much quicker 5G will be than 4G. Carphone Warehouse claims 5G can offer speeds up to 1,000 times faster than 4G, which means you could download a full HD movie in a matter of seconds.
This doesn’t mean 5G will replace 4G. Anyone with a phone or device connected to 5G will still have access to 4G in areas without the 5G network.
In fact, when you’re connected to 5G you’re actually using the combined power of 4G and 5G at the same time.
It’s about more than just faster speed. It’s hoped that 5G networks will support thousands more devices than 4G, which could improve public services and healthcare.