O2 has launched 5G in the UK following on from EE, BT Mobile and Vodafone. Three has announced its 5G plans but has yet to offer 5G phones or plans.
Notably, O2’s 5G plans cost the same as its 4G plans, though this is exclusive of the cost of a handset on a long-term contract. The additional cost of an expensive 5G-ready smartphone makes buying a 5G phone on contract more expensive than 4G, as is the case with every other mobile network.
The 5G plans cost from £25 per month for 5GB data and Unlimited minutes and texts. A fully unlimited 5G data, minutes and texts SIM is just £40 – but remember the cost of the handset you’ll need to buy.
O2 said it will today turn on 5G in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Slough and Leeds with a promise to have 20 total locations by the end of 2019. It offers four 5G phones, most of which are Samsung devices: the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, Samsung Galaxy A90 5G and the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G.
Also offered to anyone who buys an iPhone 11, 11 Pro or 11 Pro Max on a 4G contract with 90GB, 120GB or Unlimited plan is a ’5Guarantee’, where they can claim £100 back when they upgrade to “The New Apple Smartphone 2020”, heavily implying that the next iPhone will be 5G compatible. Apple itself has not confirmed its 5G iPhone plans.
“We’re launching with a range of tariffs that make it easy and fair for customers to access 5G, with flexible plans that cost no more than 4G. We’re also switching on 5G in important parts of towns and cities first, places where it will benefit customers and businesses most,” said Mark Evans, CEO, Telefónica UK.
The mentioned parts of towns and cities include high footfall areas in London’s Waterloo and Kings Cross, Haymarket in Edinburgh and Trinity Shopping Centre in Leeds.
But we find O2’s price promise on 5G plans misleading given the higher cost of 5G smartphones. That said, it will allow existing O2 Refresh customers to move onto a 5G plan at any time, and anyone who buys a 5G phone and plan on contract can flexibly pick how much to pay upfront and can spread the remaining cost over three to 36 months.
We have reviewed both EE and Vodafone’s 5G networks and can confidently come to the same conclusion with O2’s before using it: you don’t need a 5G phone or plan yet. Wait until 5G coverage is more widespread in your area and nationwide. In 2019 (and into 2020) you’ll be paying a premium for not enough tangible benefit over 4G or a 4G phone.
O2 added that it has partnerships with Melody VR and Oculus to give customers access to concerts in VR, though with Samsung and Google canning their mobile VR headsets we can't see this being much of a perk.