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5G networks: the UK providers with the best coverage and speeds

5G mobile signal bars and lightning bolt

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We compare the UK networks with 5G data to see which have the best overall 5G coverage and 5G speeds around the country. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 27th July 2020.

5G mobile networks in the UK

Every major network now has their 5G data live

Map of UK with 5G dots

Each network's rolling 5G out now

All four UK networks (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone) each have their 5G networks switched on - as do some of the smaller providers that use them for signal. And there's a growing list of 5G-ready phones too.

Every network's rollout is happening at a rapid pace but coverage is still on a location-by-location basis (rather than national) and there's not a huge amount of independent speed testing data available yet.

This guide compares how far each network has got with rolling out their 5G data services in the most places and what speeds you can expect to get with each provider, to find the fastest 5G network.

How each network compares for 5G

Joint 1st: EE have best combo of 5G coverage and speeds

EE 5G map

More locations being added this yearSee latest list

at EE.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign The most UK locations
Green plus sign Fastest speeds in tests
Green plus sign Good range of 5G phone contracts

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Few 5G SIM only plans
Red minus sign 5G makes plans more premium

Just like when 4G came out, EE seem to be rolling out their 5G network the fastest. It's now live in all the 125+ towns and cities listed here - that's the most of any UK provider.

According to EE's 5G coverage checker here, their 5G is also more comprehensive within those locations than other providers too (the map is based on EE's own computer simulations, not actual measurments though).

On speeds, there's not a huge amount of reliable test data yet. But early tests by independent testers Speedtest show EE have the lead on 5G downloads with a typical 142.86 Mbps, peaking at 245.73 Mbps.

EE sell 5G on distinct plans from their 4G ones - you don't get 5G at no extra cost. They have a decent range of 5G contract phones but the choice on SIM only is limited to an unlimited data plan only.

If we had to bet on which network would have the best 5G network coverage in five years time, EE would probably be our choice, just based on how they rolled out 4G fastest when it came out and never looked back.

Useful link: EE's full guide to their 5G rollout

Our ranking:
Joint 1st

5G towns/cities in UK:
125+ (see latest list here)

Extra locations this year:
Unknown

5G plans available:
Phone contracts
SIM only plan

Joint 1st: BT Mobile have 5G live in the same places as EE

Screenshot of BT's updated 5G coverage checker

BT's updated 5G coverage checkerUse network map

at BT.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Joint largest number of 5G cities
Green plus sign Benefit from EE's speeds
Green plus sign Decent range of 5G phones

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Not available on SIM only
Red minus sign No 5G roaming yet

BT bought EE a few years ago, so naturally use the EE network for BT Mobile. Coverage is identical between the two. And any city where EE have 5G, BT Mobile will have it too. We believe speeds are also identical too.

That earns BT Mobile joint first place, because you can get their 5G in the same 125+ places as you can on EE. If you go by BT's coverage checker, their 5G stretches way further than other networks.

You can get a 5G plan with any of the 5G-ready phones from BT's pay monthly range. But if you want 5G on SIM only, you can't get it yet. We're talking to BT to find out when this will be available.

On coverage and speeds, BT get a high ranking here but their actual 5G product offering for customers is pretty limited so far.

Useful link: BT's guide to 5G on their network

Our ranking:
Joint 1st

5G towns/cities in UK:
125+ (see latest list here)

Extra locations this year:
Unknown

5G plans available:
Phone contracts

Joint 2nd: O2 have 5G data in slightly fewer locations

Screenshot of O2 coverage map

5G is still on street-by-street basisUse O2's 5G map

at O2.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Targeting different cities to others
Green plus sign Larger areas within places covered
Green plus sign Big improvement on their 4G

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Only busiest places covered

O2's 4G has long been the slowest of the main networks, so their 5G data needs to be an improvement. And according to Speedtest's early data it is, with typical 5G downloads at181.19 Mbps (vs 4G at 16.95 Mbps).

So far O2 have rolled out their 5G in slightly fewer locations than EE and Three (150+ in total, see list here). Within those places, it's mainly the busiest areas where O2 offer 5G (check street by street coverage here).

Every pay monthly SIM only plan is available with 5G now on O2 but you have to specifically tell them during the checkout process that you have a 5G-ready phone, else you only get a 4G-ready SIM sent out.

And they've got a decent range of 5G phones on contract.

Useful link: Latest O2 5G rollout news

Our ranking:
Joint 2nd

5G towns/cities in UK:
150+ (see list here)

Extra locations this year:
Unknown

5G plans available:
SIM only
Phone contracts

Joint 2nd: Sky Mobile have 5G in all the places O2 do

Hello 5G banner

You don't get 5G automatically on SkyHow to get 5G

at sky.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Same locations as O2

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Not really at no extra cost

Sky are a separate company to O2 but do use their mobile network to bring their Sky Mobile customers signal. And Sky Mobile now support 5G data (they've updated their coverage checker here with all 5G locations).

As O2 build-out their 5G network, Sky Mobile will benefit at the same pace. The current 150+ 5G cities will expand as the rollout continues.

Getting 5G on Sky isn't simple though. You have to add it your account as an add-on. There are no 5G plans that work out-of-the-box at no extra cost, even if you take a phone with feature.

That add-on either costs a monthly charge (£5 at our last check) or you can get it free if you're a member of Sky's VIP loyalty scheme. For us, this is an annoying constraint that needs to change quickly.

Useful link: Sky's full guide to their 5G

Our ranking:
Joint 2nd

5G towns/cities in UK:
150+ (see list here)

Extra locations this year:
Unknown

5G plans available:
SIM only (add-on required)
Phone contracts (add-on required)

Joint 2nd: Three's 5G live in next biggest number of places

Three's fast 5G banner

They say their 5G will be the fastestRead why

at three.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Big list of live locations
Green plus sign 5G plans at no extra cost
Green plus sign Could be UK's fastest 5G

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Small areas only within locations

There's no reliable test data yet for the speeds on Three's 5G network, which is now live. But they do claim theirs could end up being the UK's fastest, because they've secured more spectrum than other networks.

In theory, Three have also got 5G data in the second largest number of places (see the full list of the 192 locations here) - ahead of O2 but behind EE.

We'd caution that Three have only small parts of those places covered, rather than the whole town or city. They've focussed on the busier sections only, rather than residential areas too (check street-by-street here).

As they did when 4G first came out, Three have added 5G at no extra cost to all their pay monthly SIMs, compatible phone contracts and pay as you go.

Useful link: Latest 5G news on Three

Our ranking:
Joint 2nd

5G towns/cities in UK:
192 (see full list)

Extra locations coming:
Unknown

5G plans available:
SIM only
Phone contracts

Joint 3rd: Vodafone are slightly behind others in the UK

Vodafone 5G coverage map

Vodafone have the best 5G roamingSee latest cities

at vodafone.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign No extra cost on most plans
Green plus sign Best for 5G roaming

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Shorter reach in covered locations

With 5G in these 100+ locations, Vodafone are a tad behind EE, Three and O2 for the number of places they have 5G, and their own 5G coverage checker suggests a shorter reach in the places Vodafone do have it.

Where Vodafone have the edge over many providers is that they've made 5G data available at no extra cost on practically every pay monthly SIM only plan and phone contract (where the model supports it).

Vodafone are also keen to point out that you'll get 5G when roaming abroad (if your UK plan has it) in the most number of locations of any network. If you're a jet-setter you could benefit.

Useful link: Vodafone's latest 5G news

Our ranking:
Joint 3rd

5G towns/cities in UK:
100+ (see list here)

Extra locations this year:
10 (see list here)

5G plans available:
SIM only
Phone contracts

Joint 3rd: VOXI have 5G in the same locations as Vodafone

VOXI 5G data banner

Only one VOXI plan has 5GSee full details

at VOXI.co.uk
(opens in new window)

An affordable alternative to Vodafone is their sub-brand VOXI, which accesses the Vodafone network (read how they compare here). Most their plans are 4G/3G/2G only but they do have one 5G SIM only deal:

The same plan can also be added as part of a phone contract with VOXI (alhtough obviously the 5G element of it will only work if the model you choose supports 5G).

On VOXI, you'll get 5G in all the same places as Vodafone, because their coverage is identical. That currently means you can get it in the 100+ cities named here on Vodafone's website.

Useful link: Read our full VOXI review

Our ranking:
Joint 3rd

5G towns/cities in UK:
100+ (see list here)

Extra locations this year:
10 (see list here)

5G plans available:
SIM only (not all)
Phone contracts

Other networks we expect to have 5G in the next 12 months

SMARTY's 5G banner

SMARTY say they'll be getting 5GRead latest

at SMARTY.co.uk
(opens in new window)

There are a number of small virtual providers (ones that use another network for signal), who've already declared that they will be offering 5G data in future.

Three's low-cost SMARTY brand will be offering 5G on their SIM only plans, although the timing and pricing is yet to be confirmed (still probably a while after Three's own switch-on).

Tesco Mobile say they'll have 5G in early 2020. They use the O2 network and are promising 5G data in all the same places once it launches. giffgaff are owned by O2 but we're not sure of their 5G intentions yet.

Virgin Mobile have struck a deal to move their services off EE's network and onto Vodafone's. This is due to happen in 2021 but Virgin seem intent to launch 5G via Vodafone before that.

Networks we're not expecting to have 5G any time soon

iD Mobile logoPlusnet logoTalkmobile logo

In this section, we're looking at networks that we don't think will have 5G for a considerable amount of time (for at least a few years). We'd stress we don't have any insider information though.

We don't expect iD Mobile to have 5G in the near future. Their host Three is still working on their own and now own SMARTY, a direct low-cost competitor to iD. We can't see Three letting iD have it for a while.

Plusnet Mobile are owned indirectly by BT (who also own EE). They're run as a low-cost, no-frills brand. So we can't see them offering 5G any time soon while BT can charge a premium for 5G via its EE and own brands.

It's a similar story for Talkmobile, Vodafone's cheap and cheerful brand. It wouldn't be in Vodafone's interest to give away 5G at a low cost, to customers who probably aren't that interested anyway.

Useful link: Reviews of each UK mobile network

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