Bristol is to be one of the first UK cities to get 5G wireless next year as EE rolls out the technology.

The first five largest cities will see 5G in the middle of the year, with ten more by the end of the year. Areas of London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester are first, followed by Bristol.

Bristol-based EE, now part of BT, will introduce 5G smartphones as well as a 5G Home router for 5G broadband. It is also building next-generation 5G core network, with virtualised network functions on a cloud-native infrastructure.

Living in one of Europe’s leading technology clusters, Bristolians are no strangers to 5G, which provides faster, more responsive data links with lower latency. This year 5G is rolling out from the We the Curious science centre across to Bath with systems from Blu Wireless Technology and Vodafone has been testing 5G tech in the city.

Researchers in Bristol are already looking at 6G at the Smart Internet Lab at the University of Bristol, while stellar startup Zeetta Networks has been developing network technology for making 5G more efficient. Bristol also hosts BT’s national broadband network control centre.

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The BT Technology team is virtualising elements of the core network for 5G rollout in 2019, and is building a next-generation 5G core in line with the next stage of global 5G standards, with virtualised network functions on a cloud-native infrastructure, creating the basis for a smart and fully converged agile network. The BT 21CN backbone network is Petabit-class, capable of handling thousands of terabits of data each second, and will ensure the future-proofed scale required to enable a world-leading 5G experience.

“Adding 5G to the UK’s number one 4G network will increase reliability, increase speeds, and keep our customers connected where they need it most. This is another milestone for the UK and for our network journey – we’ll keep evolving as we move to one, smart network for our customers. We have an ambition to connect our customers to 4G, 5G or WiFi 100% of the time,” said Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer division.

The 5G rollout strategy is determined by the number of business and consumer customers the EE network connects in busy places, and the amount of data those customers use. For example, in the last three months alone, more than 2.1 million individual customers connected around Waterloo station, with just one site at the station carrying more than 100 terabytes of data per day. The first 1,500 sites that EE is upgrading to 5G in 2019 carry 25% of all data across the whole network, but only cover 15% of the UK population.

EE is upgrading transmission to 10Gbps links at each 5G site and has tested the new links at sites in Canary Wharf and across East London.