O2 has revealed it will switch on its 5G network from October, aiming to go live in 20 towns and cities by the end of the year, including London, Leeds, Edinburgh and Cardiff.
Belfast and Slough will also get 5G first in O2’s first wave of launches, as it races to bring that number to 50 by summer 2020 as the UK’s major mobile operators deploy the technology.
Vodafone - with whom O2 will share some network equipment - began its own 5G rollout in July, while EE was the first UK network to launch 5G in late May.
Mark Evans, chief executive of O2 owner Telefonica UK, said: “As we switch on our network across the country, our intelligence-led roll-out prioritises the key areas in towns and cities first – the places where our customers need, and will use, 5G the most.
“We’re also giving our customers maximum flexibility with our industry-leading custom plans, letting people adopt 5G at a time that’s right for them.”
The announcement came as O2 posted results for the first six months of 2019.
Total revenue rose 5.1 per cent year on year to £2.9bn for the first half, as operating income before depreciation and amortisation climbed 6.4 per cent to £919m.
O2 also upped its total customer base to 33.3m, a 3.6 per cent year-on-year increase. That includes users of giffgaff, Tesco Mobile, Sky Mobile and Lycamobile.
At the same time it said its contract churn rate was a market-leading 0.9 per cent.
It added 41,000 new contract customers in the six months to the end of June, with contracts now comprising 67 per cent of its overall customer base.
While its operating income margin rose 0.3 percentage points year on year, capital expenditure hit £358m - or £2m per day - as O2 invested in its network.
What O2 said
CEO Evans said:
“We continue to deliver further customer, top-line and bottom-line growth underpinned by our award-winning network and market-leading loyalty. Custom plans has proven to be a key differentiator for O2, with the launch of Apple Watch demonstrating the power of this proposition in the market. We are announcing today that O2 customers will benefit from 5G connectivity from October this year, with rollout extending our 5G presence to 50 towns and cities by summer 2020.”