5G vs 4G: what’s the difference?

4 September 2020

In May 2019, EE was first to launch 5G in the UK and has expanded 5G on a daily basis to bring the best mobile experience to consumers and businesses across the UK.

Now our 5G service is available in more places than any other network. What’s more, according to independent testing from RootMetrics by IHS Markit, in early 2021 EE’s 5G network achieved the highest 5G availability in fourteen major UK cities: Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.

Unlike 3G to 4G, 5G is not a replacement for 4G. It adds another layer to the network to provide more capacity in the busiest parts of the UK’s busiest cities.

Take a look at where we’ve rolled out 5G so far >

What are the benefits of 5G?

When 4G first arrived on our phones in 2012 it was revolutionary. It’s shaped how people across the UK communicate, watch, learn and share. 5G builds on that.

5G vs 4G - Adding 5G to the UK’s number one 4G network increases reliability and keeps you connected where you need it most, in the busiest places. 5G offers you increased speeds, more reliable coverage and reduced latency. This means faster downloads of your favourite films and albums, quicker website browsing, and a better streaming experience in busy areas.

How fast will 5G be?

5G brings many benefits, including the potential to give you speeds of 1 gigabit per second – that’s an incredible milestone to reach.

You can currently expect average 5G speeds of over 100Mbps. It means that you could download a film using 5G in just a few minutes instead of 15 minutes on 4G.

And it can reduce latency from 30-40ms today, to as low as 10ms in the future. Low latency will give you a near instant connection to the content you love most, with very little lag. Whether you’re opening apps and webpages or playing the latest high-resolution game on your phone, everything will feel super-quick.

5G is particularly good for streaming high-resolution games, making your favourite titles play like a dream. What’s more, a near-instant connection opens up possibilities for exciting new augmented and virtual reality experiences on your smartphone.

Network insights reveal that customers are using the lower latency and faster speeds of EE’s 5G network to watch even more video. YouTube is the most popular app to date, with 5G customers using double the amount of data than the second most popular app. Netflix has jumped from being the fourth-most popular app on EE’s 4G network to number two on 5G, followed by Facebook, Instagram and Google.

How will 5G and 4G work together?

5G works hand-in-hand with 4G: when you connect to 5G on EE, you’re actually connecting to both the 4G and 5G parts of the network at the same time, and you get the combined power of all that 4G and 5G capacity. 

5G isn’t a replacement for 4G – it’s an addition to our existing award-winning network.

Our 5G roll out has been focused on the busiest locations in the busiest cities where it can make the biggest difference to the most people. It means when you're somewhere busy, like a stadium or city centre, the extra capacity 5G supports will let you use your phone to browse the web, upload photos or stream content even more reliably, with less lag and buffering.

As well as switching on the first 5G sites in new cities and large towns, EE has also brought 5G to more high footfall places, including Bath’s Royal Crescent and Pulteney Bridge, London Bridge and London’s Thornton Heath railway station.

It’s time to get excited about the possibilities of 5G, but don’t forget the importance of a great 4G network to enable those possibilities and keep you connected everywhere you go. We certainly won’t.

See the latest 5G phones or check out our 5G and 4G routers which can help you get online at home if your suffer from slow WiFi speeds. 


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