One of Europe’s biggest carriers is bringing 5G service to 16 UK cities next year

The United Kingdom’s biggest cell carrier, EE, announced plans today to launch proper 5G mobile service throughout parts of the region, with a 16-city rollout planned for 2019. The first phase of the rollout will begin with capital cities across the UK, including Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and London. Two other England cities, Birmingham and Manchester, are also included in phase one, which is scheduled for sometime next year.

EE is focusing its efforts on high-volume centers in those first six cities, including Hyde Park in London, the Manchester and Belfast airports, Edinburgh’s Waverley train station, the Welsh Assembly, and Birmingham’s Bullring shopping center. EE joins other European carriers, like Vodafone and Three UK, with plans to make 2019 the big launch year for mobile 5G.

After the initial rollout, EE is planning to bring 5G to 10 additional cities in the UK. Those include Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry, and Bristol. The first 1,500 sites EE intends to upgrade in its initial phase are responsible for 25 percent of the cell traffic, the company says. As part of its 5G plans, EE is launching 5G home broadband service, which will pair a specialized router and external antenna to bring higher speeds to UK homes.

Of course, mobile 5G doesn’t mean much unless you have a 5G-equipped modem in your smartphone, which none of the flagship models out now support. A number of phone manufacturers and components suppliers are currently working together — principally Apple, Intel, Samsung, and Qualcomm — to get the hardware ready as soon as 2019. But now that the UN’s International Telecommunication Union has established proper standards, carriers have started planning proper rollouts and the type of infrastructure upgrades required to get ready for the shift.