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Home / Technology / A week with Britain's first 5G network: speed, network coverage and more

A week with Britain's first 5G network: speed, network coverage and more



British operator EE switched on the UK's first 5G network at the end of last month in London and many other cities. As a resident of London, I had the opportunity to test this new 5G network for at least a week and to get a better feel for the beginnings of 5G. We've heard a lot of hype about what 5G will offer, but right now 5G is starting in the UK at frequencies below 6GHz, so much of that hype will not come up. Sub 6GHz frequencies are great for better coverage, but do not offer all the speed and bandwidth benefits that 5G promises.

After testing for more than a week with the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, I would definitely do so Wait for the next 5G modems, more network coverage, and network enhancements before you spend money on a 5G handset enter into an agreement. The grid operators have tried to complete a 5G grid, but it takes longer for the oven to be completely baked.

Speed ​​has always been the most obvious advantage of 5G. During my first practice hours in London, I saw some really impressive 5G speeds, but I could not consistently replicate them. On average, the speed was 200 Mbps in most 5G areas. That's still an impressive jump over the 4G speeds I've experienced in busy places like London's many train stations. These areas became bottlenecks for 4G during the morning commute, but at the gates of London Bridge I recorded 1

30 Mbps with 5G compared to 530 Kbps with 4G recording 300 Mbps at peak times. Most of these speeds would even exceed 400 Mbps. These seem to be the constant 5G top speeds in all the major London areas, but I could occasionally reach 500 Mbps or 600 Mbps and more. I once recorded 980 Mbit / s, but could never reach that speed in all my tests.

In most cases, speeds were between 100 Mbps and 200 Mbps. In most parts of Shoreditch in East London, the average was 200 Mbps. Canary Wharf, London's financial center, was by far the best place for high speeds. I was able to reach a constant 400 Mbps, and this regularly increased to 500 Mbps and even 600 Mbps. Unfortunately, the cover for 5G in Canary Wharf seems to be quite thin, so I could only reach these speeds in certain places.

However, I was impressed by the 5G cover. Although I do not have a 5G signal at home south of Central London, much of London and even the suburbs are covered by it. I was able to tie the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G to a laptop via WLAN and one day reach speeds of about 100 Mbit / s in a beer garden. I've found that tethering speed does not always match the higher speeds of the phone unless you're using direct USB tethering.

With tethering, you can really judge the performance of 5G, and speeds can fluctuate greatly as you download larger files. I found that with smaller files, the speeds remained constant and I was able to download them quickly, but I tried to download a Windows 10 ISO from the fast download servers from Microsoft, and although it started at about 60 MB / s, she went back to 500 KB / s a ​​few minutes later.

With these download speeds, I was able to scrub YouTube videos through 1440p HDR in seconds and download episodes of Spotify's Netflix TV shows or albums much faster than I've seen on many Wi-Fi websites. Fi devices could hotspots in London. I would not say that download speeds are life changing right now, but if the upload speeds match them, it would change my ability to work anywhere.

The most disappointing part of my testing was the modest upload speeds. 5G was always about speed, but most upload speed tests barely reached 50 Mbps, which made me rethink the dream of a remote office. At home and in our London office, I have a 1 Gbps connection and can transfer large 4K video files to our office in New York within minutes. This is not possible with a 5G connection with an upload speed of less than 50 Mbps. According to EE, these upload speeds will not improve until the 5G network expands later this year. The current 5G upload connections still use 4G, so speeds are so much lower than the download links.

My big worry about 5G is the data usage. On the first day of testing alone I used 20 GB of data in speed tests alone. That's an awesome amount of mobile data, and within a few hours I'd have reviewed EE's basic 10GB data plan for 59 GBP (74 USD) a month. A 10 GB data plan is not enough for 5G, and you need at least 100 GB of data per month to really take advantage of this new network. EE's maximum plan is 120 GB 5G data for 79 GBP (100 USD) per month with the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, which is currently an expensive option.

EE offers music or video data passes that can be bundled A monthly contract means that streaming data from services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Netflix does not count toward your monthly data cap. While this does not violate net neutrality rules in the UK, it allows these operators to persuade customers to pay extras to avoid bandwidth restrictions. It feels very difficult to only offer unlimited data businesses.

Unless all UK network operators operate 5G networks, these data limits will result in less competitive pricing. Three is the only operator in the UK currently offering unlimited data for 4G connections, while Vodafone, EE and O2 have signed 4G contracts of up to 100GB per month. A number of other Virtual Network (MVNO) mobile operators also offer unlimited 4G data, but the 5G prices are becoming truly competitive if there is a network that wants to offer unlimited 5G data.

Prices must be competitive if the promise of 5G is met will be delivered soon. Data restrictions and expensive monthly contracts will only hamper the progress of high-speed networks and the potential of Gigabit 5G networks to reach households in the UK.

Another concern I had for 5G was the impact on battery life. When testing with the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, I found that these concerns were not justified: Battery life was not significantly affected by 5G. The OnePlus 7 Pro 5G has a large 4,000 mAh battery. Even with a 5-G connector, I found that it stayed the same day in my tests.

What interested me most about 5G was the weird network of oddities that I witnessed. On a few occasions, I took a few steps and immediately dropped from a 200 Mbps connection to less than 10 Mbps, or the phone told me that I have a strong 5-G signal, but none at all Have network connection. I had to switch the flight mode several times during my tests to restore connectivity. This reminded me of the beginnings of 3G and 4G when the connectivity of modems and their associated networks was not well optimized.

OnePlus released a software update during my tests that seemed to improve things slightly, but there were still areas where 5G did not seem to return well to a 4G connection. or I would fight to get connectivity at all. OnePlus tries to improve this situation through software updates. Over time, EE's infrastructure improvements will also address some of these early problems.


However, the early nature of 5G is highlighted. EE has implemented this new connectivity with sub 6GHz bands, which in my experience provide better coverage but do not offer all the benefits promised by 5G. Higher frequencies above 6 GHz allow 5G devices to transmit much more bandwidth but operate them over a shorter distance. Also, the radio waves can not easily penetrate walls and objects that are between you and the 5G antenna. The first 5G networks in the US use millimeter waves (mmWave), and although the speeds are higher than EE, the coverage is significantly worse.

At some point, 5G will move in the UK and elsewhere towards the mmWave spectrum. This promises far better speeds than I've seen in my tests, but the challenges of shorter transmission ranges become even more difficult when it comes to interference from walls, buildings or even rain.

] 5G is a clear progression, from capture to speed and reliability. But it already shows an early promise. Currently, it promises constant speeds that you expect from 4G, even in the busiest areas of a big city like London. In many areas, I realized that 5G speeds were 10 times what I could achieve with 4G in the same place. EE plans to add 100 mobile sites per month and a download speed faster by 100 to 150 Mbps at 5G than at 4G.

The real test of 5G will be how well network operators such as EE manage capacity and bandwidth requirements. We've seen the previous promises of 4G speeds just to see them stifle at busy points in cities. 4G in London is particularly bad in most parts of the city, and while 5G is certainly better, fewer people currently use this network.

5G seems to be a race for network operators, but the winners will be the one that can truly deliver these new connectivity speeds in the coming years. Finally, let's all look at our phones and see maximum 5G signal bars that match maximum speeds, not maximum 5G signal bars and 4G speeds.


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