EE launches its UK 5G network test in Canary Wharf

BT-owned mobile operator EE has launched a 5G test network in Canary Wharf, London ahead of a full commercial rollout next year.

As the country’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, the launch by EE is a landmark moment in the UK’s path to 5G.

Fotis Karonis, 5G Technology Lead at BT Group, said:

“This is the latest milestone in our 5G rollout – a live test of our 5G network, in a hugely busy ‘hotspot’, where we know there’s going to be demand from customers for increased mobile capacity.

With constant upgrades to 4G, and laying the foundations for 5G, we’re working to always be able to deliver what our customers need – both consumers and the vertical industries that will make the greatest use of 5G.

We were UK pioneers with 4G and today we saw the UK’s first live connections on 5G – this is a huge step forward for our digital infrastructure.”

EE announced it would be launching the 5G network back in June, promising it to be the UK’s first proper test. Some expected O2 to beat it after plans to launch its own test bed at the O2 Arena, but EE was first to market.

The current network covers Montgomery Square in Canary Wharf and was selected by EE for its high footfall and data usage. Some 150,000 people visit the square each day, providing a better test of how the network will perform in high traffic areas.

Mark Nallen, Head of Technology and Innovation at Canary Wharf Group, commented:

“Staying at the forefront of connectivity and new technologies is critical to our community, and that’s why we’re partnering with BT Group to support delivery of 5G.

The consumers who live and work here will benefit from being better connected, and the enterprises based here will have the chance to partner with BT Group to understand the full capabilities of 5G.”

EE is using network equipment by Huawei for its test; along with 3.4 GHz spectrum it won in regulator Ofcom’s auction earlier this year.

The use of Huawei’s equipment continues to be a controversial subject.

Around Europe, the company is relatively welcome and its highly-regarded equipment used by many operators. Australia, however, recently took the decision to follow the US in banning the Chinese vendor’s equipment over national security concerns.

The US and Australia are part of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence sharing partnership which also includes the UK, Canada, and New Zealand. The US is said to be pressuring its partners to follow suit.

Last month, Canadian security officials went on record to say the country has the necessary safeguards in place not to follow the bans of the US and Australia.

Canada is attempting to make the case to its partners that excluding telecoms equipment manufacturers leads to an increased security risk. If a specific vendor’s equipment is compromised, it would represent a larger proportion of the network.

Rather than ban Huawei, the UK and Canada have both established labs where security officials test equipment for potential vulnerabilities.

Testing equipment rather than banning seems to be a more sensible approach. Competition is good for prices and innovation, while bans would prevent companies such as EE from accessing potentially class-leading equipment.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo ad Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam.

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