EE Reveals Details of 5G Network Launch

Operator wins UK battle to be first

This morning, EE announced that its 5G network will go live for paying customers on 30 May 2019, just over a month ahead of Vodafone, which will switch on its 5G network on 3 July.

EE’s 5G smartphone plans range from £54 a month with 10 GB of data to £74 a month with 120 GB. SIM-only plans for 5G range from £32 a month with 20 GB of data to £52 with 100 GB.

The launch event in London, attended by CCS Insight, reflected an evolutionary shift from 4G to 5G, as EE elected to initially focus on offering a more reliable mobile experience. Although its first 5G tariffs contain little that is truly innovative, we applaud a realistic launch that addresses existing customer problems without overinflating expectations.

As previously indicated, EE’s initial coverage will focus on the busiest parts of six major cities: London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester (see Instant Insight: EE Sets Out Strategy for 5G Network Launch).

Significantly, EE’s 5G tariffs cost an extra £5 a month. Higher pricing implies a premium service but I’m not sure that such an approach can be sustained for long.

EE’s 5G plans include some additional features. Customers on the top-tier package can take up to three Swappable Benefits, such as music and video passes, access to the BT Sport app and roaming outside the EU. Later in 2019, EE will introduce two more benefits: a gaming pass with zero-rated data and a high-definition HDR variant of the BT Sport app, exclusive to 5G customers.

EE’s 5G customers will also receive exclusive benefits related to augmented reality game Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, through a partnership with developer Niantic.

EE says it will offer the widest selection of 5G-enabled devices in the UK. Its new devices include exclusive smartphones from OnePlus (7 Pro 5G); LG (V50 ThinQ) and Oppo (Reno 5G). EE will also offer the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G. Pre-orders start today.

The operator also announced it will launch a home broadband service — 5GEE Home — in June 2019, using fixed wireless technology. However, it declined to disclose pricing.

Business customers will gain access to 5G at the same time as consumers, initially on the EE brand. Early benefits will be similar, largely based on speed, capacity and reliability. EE’s 5G business plans appear closely aligned to consumer tariffs but are supplemented by additional features such as mobile security from MobileIron and Data Reserve, which allows customers who have run out of data to connect, albeit at a slower speed.

Although being first to market with 5G will mean little to consumers, it was clearly an important honour for EE, and it chimes with the sentiment of new BT CEO Philip Jansen, who recently set out an ambition to transform the company into a “national champion”.

Today’s Daily Insight is an extract of CCS Insight’s more detailed analysis into EE’s 5G announcements, published to our clients earlier today (see Instant Insight: EE to Launch UK’s First 5G Network).

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