Black Friday Offer: 12GB of Data for just £10/month
For Black Friday only Three is offering customers 12GB of data with unlimited UK minutes and texts for just £10 a month. The deal is a 24-month contract and it’s only available during the Black Friday sales so hurry up!
You get the extra perks of 5G at no extra cost, and Go Roam, which lets you roam abroad at 71 destinations including EU, USA & Australia. This is a limited time offer so click through to ensure you don’t miss out!
5G technology is advancing at a steady pace in the UK with increasingly more mobile networks offering 5G SIM Only deals, as well as 5G phone deals. We understand that the UK mobile market is starting to get saturated with 5G SIM deals and things might get a bit confusing. This is where we come in and help you find the most suitable 5G SIM Only deal for you.
This article will provide all the relevant information on 5G in the UK in an unbiased manner. Three, EE, O2, Vodafone, VOXI, Sky Mobile, Tesco Mobile and BT Mobile are currently the only mobile networks with 5G, but mobile virtual network operators like SMARTY and giffgaff are planning to offer 5G plans in the near future too.
Let’s start with what is 5G, what are the benefits of 5G technology & 5G coverage and which networks offer 5G SIM deals. Then we can compare the best 5G SIM Only plans available in the UK.
Table of Contents
What is 5G?
In simpler terms, 5G delivers higher peak data speeds, super low latency and massive network capacity.
The name 5G refers to the fifth generation of wireless technology. As you can guess, the ‘G’ in 5G refers to generation. Currently, 5G is the fastest wireless standard available and EE was the first mobile network to launch a 5G service in the UK in May 2019.
All four major mobile network operators in the UK offer 5G coverage and download speeds. Vodafone launched 5G in the UK back in July 2019, and O2 launched their 5G in October 2019. Three launched their 5G service in February 2020, a bit later than the other major mobile providers, however they’re providing 5G to all their customers at no extra cost, including traditional pay as you go customers.
5G delivers higher peak and low data speeds than 4G. 5G also provides massive network capacity and extremely low latency compared to 4G. Long story short, 4G can’t compete with 5G in any way except availability. The mobile networks in the UK are working hard to improve this and increase their 5G coverage, but it will take some time before it will become standard as 4G is. You’ll also need a 5G phone and a 5G data plan to connect to a 5G network.
Benefits of 5G
5G technology offers three great benefits when using a mobile network. 5G users benefit from super-fast 5G download speeds, massive network capacity and super-low latency.
5G Download Speeds
If you have a 5G SIM card and a 5G ready handset, you can get up to 1000Mbps (1Gbps) download speeds, provided you’re in an area with decent 5G coverage. However, more often than not your average download speeds will be around 100Mbps to 200Mbps. This may seem a lot less than what you could potentially get, but it’s still about 5 times faster than what you get with 4G. According to Open Signal’s test results EE currently holds the fastest average 5G download speeds record in the UK, but the technology isn’t available countrywide, so we think it’s too early to crown a mobile network as the best.
5G Network Capacity
5G has superior network capacity in every way possible compared to 4G and other older generations. Superior network capacity means more people can use their mobile devices at the same time in a crowded area, be it for voice calls, video calls or anything related to internet usage without any hiccups. 4G still struggles at sports stadiums, city centres & heavily populated areas when it comes to holding a steady connection. You may see full bars on your screen, but when you’re trying to make a call or check something on the web, things may not operate smoothly. At its current state 5G can only carry data, so it won’t massively help with calls but you’ll be able to use your mobile data faster than ever.
When we’re using the internet we continuously send data to other devices & servers, and we also receive data. Simply put, latency refers to the total round trip time it takes for a data packet to travel. Since the latency is measured in time and we want to deliver and receive data as fast as possible, we want our latency to be as low as possible. 5G offers extremely low latency. Super-low latency is great for many other technologies.
In order to benefit from 5G, you’ll need a 5G SIM, a 5G plan and a 5G ready mobile phone. Apple handsets currently don’t offer 5G support, so you’ll have to look for an Android device at this time. Currently Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei and some other manufacturers offer 5G ready handsets.
You can purchase an unlocked 5G phone from retailers, and some providers offer unlocked 5G devices too. However, some mobile network providers like BT Mobile may only allow you to use 5G, if you bought your handset directly from them. Given how BT Mobile currently doesn’t offer any 5G phones (they used to), the only people who can benefit from their 5G service are their existing customers. However, some customers have said that devices purchased elsewhere did work with a BT Mobile 5G SIM.
If your smartphone doesn’t have 5G support, you can still use it, but your device will only have access to 4G, 3G and 2G coverage.
5G Network Coverage & Data Speeds
All four major mobile network providers in the UK offer 5G coverage and data speeds. EE offered the first 5G SIM plans, and the network was followed by Vodafone, O2 and lastly Three.
While EE, O2 and Three only provide 5G coverage in the UK, Vodafone takes the extra step by offering 5G in EU locations too. EE’s 5G coverage is wider and available in more locations than all the other networks. Meanwhile Three offers 5G to all their customers with no exceptions and O2 offers the widest selection of 5G SIM only plans.
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Currently, we don’t know which network offers the fastest 5G download speeds, but according to Open Signal’s latest 5G speed test results EE ranked the best in the UK. However, they didn’t publish any other data on other networks’ 5G download speeds, so the best we can do is reference our source at this point.
Mobile Networks With 5G
Three may have joined the 5G party a bit late, but the carrier is certainly not messing about. Three’s 5G is available to all their customers, including PAYG and the best part is Three offers 5G at no extra cost. You can even get a pay monthly contract starting from £5 a month and enjoy 5G download speeds, but you’ll only have 1GB of data to burn through.
Three’s unlimited data plan offers great value and is complimented by 5G download speeds. You can get unlimited data starting from 18£/month with a 24-month contract. With Black Friday Sales being just around the corner, there’s a big chance you’ll find even better Black Friday SIM Only Deals from Three, so keep an eye out! You also benefit from perks like Go Roam, Go Binge, Wi-Fi Calling and 4G Calling if you choose to join Three.
Three’s 5G is live in 68 cities and towns in the UK at the moment. The network also claims they have the fastest 5G download speeds in the UK due to their wide 5G spectrum, but it’s yet to be proven. Make sure to read our Three Review if you want to discover more about their competitive deals.
EE’s 5G service was launched back in May 2019. As stated above, EE was the first mobile network operator with 5G in the country and their 5G network coverage is superior to all the other providers. EE’s 5G is available in 112 cities and towns across the country, and they also offer wider 5G coverage in each of these locations.
Unlike Three, EE’s 5G isn’t available to all their customers. You must purchase a 5G SIM plan in order to access 5G as an EE customer. At the time of writing, these plans start from 22£ a month for 20GB of data. Essential 5G deals are 12-month contracts, while Smart SIM plans are all 24-month contracts. You also get two unlimited data options, the cheaper unlimited 5G plan comes with 1 Smart Benefit, and the more expensive one comes with three Smart Benefits.
EE’s Smart Plans come with a handful of features and if you want to learn more about them you can read our EE Review. According to objective testing bodies like Open Signal, EE’s 5G is currently the fastest in the UK.
Another good choice for a 5G network would be O2. Just like their competitor Three, O2 also offers 5G at no extra cost. Their 5G network is live in 75 cities and towns in the UK, plus you get great value on all O2 5G plans, because you get great extras such as O2 Priority deals, and O2 extra, which grants you 6 months of free Disney+.
O2 offers a wide variety of 5G SIM only tariffs as well as some great 5G phone deals. Plus the carrier splits your bill into two parts: airtime bill and phone bill. This helps you upgrade your device whenever you feel comfortable.
If you’re interested in getting an O2 5G SIM, make you sure to read our O2 Review too.
In the UK, Vodafone’s 5G coverage falls a bit behind. It’s only available in 57 cities and towns in the country, however, Vodafone is the only UK based network, which provides 5G coverage in EU locations alongside its sub brand VOXI. You can use your UK allowances and gain access to 5G in 193 more locations across Germany, Spain, Italy and Ireland. This means, Vodafone offers 5G in 247 locations in the EU.
The network’s average 5G download speeds are around 150Mbps , but of course it can be higher or lower, depending on how good the 5G coverage is in your area.
We should also underline that Vodafone’s Unlimited Lite (2Mbps max) and Unlimited Data (10Mbps max) plans come with speed restrictions. The Unlimited Max plan offers unrestricted download speeds, plus it grants you access to the best international roaming deal in the UK: Vodafone Global Roaming Plus. This feature allows you to use your UK allowances in 81 destinations across the world.
You can read our extensive Vodafone Review to learn everything you need to know about the network’s deals, network coverage, data speeds, and all the extras.
Powered by Vodafone, VOXI currently offers three 5G SIM Only plans, which also come with unlimited social media streaming, plus you don’t need to undergo a credit check to get a VOXI 5G plan. You can also simply downgrade when your 30 days are up or upgrade to a better 5G plan at any time. If you’re unhappy with the carrier’s 5G coverage you can even switch to a new mobile network.
VOXI’s 5G coverage is available in 57 cities and towns in the UK and 194 cities and towns across Germany, Spain, Italy and Ireland. Have a look at our extensive VOXI Review to discover more about their SIM only deals!
As of March 2020 Tesco Mobile started offering 5G SIM deals to their customers. Tesco Mobile is using O2’s 5G network, meaning they offer 5G coverage in 75 cities and towns in the UK.
In order to use Tesco Mobile’s 5G, you have to have a 5G ready smartphone and sign up for a 5G contract. The carrier offers a couple 5G plans at the moment, including an unlimited data plan, however, all 5G plans come with 5000 UK minutes and 5000 texts. The carrier doesn’t offer any pay as you go 5G deals at the moment though.
Another MVNO powered by O2 offering 5G is Sky Mobile, and they do it just as well as O2. You can use Sky Mobile’s 5G, if you have a 5G ready smartphone. You’ll also need to be a Sky VIP member or pay £5 a month for the 5G add-on. Sky VIP is a free loyalty programme, which you can join via My Sky app, meaning you don’t have to pay for the add-on.
Sky Mobile customers also benefit from Sky’s free WiFi hotspot service: The Cloud. Having said that, it’s not actually an exclusive offer as any mobile network customer can gain free access to The Cloud, but the service belongs to Sky. You also benefit from one of the best data rollover deals in the UK, if you choose to join Sky Mobile. Have a look at our extensive Sky Mobile Review, if you’re considering joining the network.
BT uses EE as its network provider and they currently offer 5G coverage, but only to their existing customers who bought their 5G smartphones directly from their stores. The mobile network operator currently doesn’t sell any 5G devices, meaning new customers can’t benefit from the network’s 5G coverage, as you must purchase their device directly from BT Mobile’s stores in order to gain access to their 5G service. We still recommend checking out our BT Mobile Review. We’re sure they will start selling new 5G smartphones soon!
Mobile Networks Without 5G
Mobile virtual network operators like SMARTY, giffgaff, 1p Mobile and Virgin Mobile are planning to offer 5G “very soon”, but they are yet to announce an official date. ASDA Mobile officially announced that they will offer 5G in early 2021 using Vodafone’s 5G network.
Best 5G SIM Only Deals
Best Wallet-Friendly 5G SIM Only Plan: Three’s traditional PAYG SIMs are 5G Ready and at no extra cost. Just pay for what you use!
Best 5G SIM Only Plan For Light Data Users: Sky Mobile’s 2GB Data plan is priced £6/month and it comes with great benefits. It’s perfect for everyday browsing, checking your emails and social media updates.
Best 5G SIM Only Plan For Medium Data Users: VOXI’s 15GB Data plan is priced at £15, and comes with unlimited social media on Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat. It also comes with Endless Video which allows you to use Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, My5, TV Player and UKTV Play without burning through your regular data.
Best 5G SIM Only Plan For Heavy Data Users: O2’s 100GB Data Plan is priced at £20/month and you also get 6 months Disney+ for free. O2 will also allow you to use your UK allowances in 75 destinations across the world. You’ll also benefit all the other perks O2 offers including the O2 Priority App.
Best 5G SIM Only Plan For Unlimited Data Users: Three’s unlimited data plans come with 5G at no extra cost, plus you pay half price for the first 6 months of your contract. Three’s most wallet-friendly 5G unlimited plan is priced at £22/month, but you’ll pay just £11/month for the first 6 months.
Best Overall 5G SIM Only Plan For International Roaming: We recommend choosing between a Vodafone Red or Vodafone Unlimited Data Plan. Vodafone and VOXI are the only two networks, which offer 5G roaming, but Vodafone offers way more locations to roam freely. The ultimate 5G Roaming Plan would be Vodafone’s Unlimited Max Plan.
Best Overall 5G SIM Only Plan: If you want the best network 4G and 5G coverage in the UK, and the fastest download speeds EE is your go to mobile network. You can get EE’s 5G Unlimited Data plan for £41/month with 3 Smart Benefits included.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is 5G dangerous?
No, 5G is completely safe. The World Health Organisation (and many other health organisations) researched 5G and they found that 5G isn’t harmful to health
Which mobile networks offer 5G SIMs in the UK?
EE is the first mobile network operator in the UK to launch a 5G service. The operator launched their 5G network back in May 2019. EE, Three, O2, Vodafone, VOXI, Tesco Mobile, Sky Mobile and BT Mobile offer 5G SIM Only deals in the UK. MVNOs like SMARTY, giffgaff, ASDA Mobile, 1p Mobile and Virgin Mobile also announced that they will launch their 5G services “soon”, but no official dates were given. BT Mobile’s 5G is only available if you purchase a 5G device directly from them, but the network isn’t selling any 5G devices at the moment.
How fast is 5G? Is it really faster than 4G?
5G download speeds can peak as high as 1Gbps (1000Mbps), but currently they average around 150Mbps to 200Mbps in the UK. According to Open Signal, EE’s 5G SIMs are the fastest at the moment. On paper 5G is about 8 to 10 times faster than 4G, but real life results vary. However, it’s safe to say, even in worst case scenarios 5G will be about 4-5 times faster than 4G.
Where is 5G available in the UK? How can I find out if I have 5G in my area?
Major mobile network operators don’t share their infrastructures with each other, which means where 5G is available to you depends on which provider you’re using. EE’s 5G is available in 112 cities and towns in the UK, whilst O2’s 5G coverage includes 75 cities and towns followed by Three with 75 locations and Vodafone with 57. Though Vodafone also offers 5G in Germany, Spain, Italy and Ireland in a total of 194 locations. You can use your mobile network provider's coverage map to see if you have 5G in your area.
Can I use 5G when roaming outside the UK?
Yes, but only if your mobile network provider is either Vodafone or its sub-brand VOXI. Other mobile network operators don’t offer 5G when roaming outside the UK.
Can I tether with my 5G SIM?
Yes, you can tether freely with your 5G SIM, regardless of your provider. All the 5G mobile networks allow tethering.