EE to upgrade hundreds of towers as operators advance 5G plans

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EE has become the latest mobile operator to reveal more of its plans for the introduction of 5G connectivity to the UK, confirming it aims to launch next year and announcing a scheme to upgrade hundreds of towers in preparation.

The firm also revealed it will be converting more than 500 3G towers to 4G over the next six months in order to cope with increasingly data-hungry consumers using the latest high-performance smartphones.

When the company switches on its 5G network in 2019, 5G sites will be built on top of the upgraded towers with the maximum amount of 4G spectrum in the busiest areas.

Marc Allera, chief executive of BT's consumer business, said: "We are using the investment we made in 3G spectrum nearly 15 years ago to give customers today a great experience with the latest smartphones on 4G, and build our foundation for 5G in 2019." 

However, EE is not the only mobile operator to make progress in recent months in anticipation of the arrival of 4G.

Vodafone, for instance, announced in the summer that it will begin trials of 5G technology in seven cities later this year. The locations covered are Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester and are set to begin between October and December. 

The operator claims this will be the biggest trial to date and will involve testing applications such as virtual and augmented reality in factories, hospitals and offices, before commercial rollouts begin in early 2020.
 
Meanwhile, O2 has written to every FTSE 100 company in the UK inviting them to take part in its own trials ahead of an expected launch date of 2020, as well as highlighting the potential business benefits of 5G technology, such as improved automation and Internet of Things capabilities.

"Mobile, and specifically 5G, is one of the UK’s most powerful opportunities to strengthen our economy, enrich our society and outperform on the global stage," said O2 chief executive Mark Evans. "Our national testbed commitment is testament to this belief and we are excited by the value it could create for UK Plc."