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5G On O2: Yeah But No But Yeah

O2 – you may have been technically the last network to switch on your 5G network but it turns out one mast of yours is right beside where I live and thus, I should get a perfect signal.  How wonderful I thought. I read over your press releases; they all sound so great. Plans with unlimited data and I quote “O2 launches 5G on its revolutionary Custom Plans, with unlimited data, and no 5G premium”. Awesome! 5G, unlimited data plan on offer and no premium on the tech, yes EE we are all glaring at you here.

5G on O2

I rush to contact O2 customer support and ask them if I buy a 5G phone will it work with their network on a PAYG SIM? I’m told yes. Woohoo I thought. I ordered a new phone with 5G on it and a SIM.  The new phone and SIM arrive, and I get no 5G service – how strange. I ask O2 customer services a few times if a PAYG SIM will work on 5G. Some say yes, most say no. I begin to think what about a 30-day contract SIM instead. No, no unlimited option. I find Unlimited Everything for £35 on a 12 month contract and think I’ve cracked it. I contact them to ask about it and I’m told, this is a 4G only product. The highest 5G enabled SIM-only contract is 50GB for £25 a month. So much for no 5G premium eh?

5G on O2

The media coverage from O2 may all be claiming 5G with no restrictions or extra charges but when we look that is just not quite true. First of all, like many I am sure, before changing networks I would like to test the new network to see how it performs where I care about using it. We all know the network coverage maps are about reliable and trustworthy as a politician so it makes sense to test first, right? However, O2 just like EE before it, doesn’t really want you to do that. For 5G, you cannot just buy a PAYG SIM and have a go (despite having once been told by O2 CS that I could) and nor can you even realistically go for a 30 day rolling contract as the “50GB” plan that you get on a 12 month, which gets you an extra 50GB a month too, costs a whopping £47 for only 50GB on a 30 day option. No extra bonus 50GB either making it almost 4 times as expensive per GB! Or to go with the same price of £25, 12 months gets you 100GB but a 30-day contract gets you a measly 15GB. O2 – a serious question here. Are you so bad you think all your customers will leave if they aren’t locked in?

One other thing to note about the 5G rollout from O2 is it would seem that while they are at it they are upgrading their masts to support the great big slice of 4G spectrum they bought at 2300MHz.  That is the Band 40 TDD (Time Division Duplex) rather than the more common FDD (Frequency Division Duplex) so they can use the great swath of spectrum there, all 40MHz of it. What’s more is that TDD means you can use all of it for up or down, let’s face it we really just want down.  So, while this “5G” test may have been a bust its not all bad.  O2 you see had previously just been using 800MHz or band 20 for 4G, that got great penetration and coverage but rubbish speed. With this new band 40 action O2 speeds have spectacularly increased. Last night about 11.30pm a speed test hit 109mbit. Damn, that is not at all bad!!

5G on O2

O2 has shown it’s got some great PR chops. I mean who didn’t love the “Be more dog” ads, but when it comes to plans the PR people seem to be getting a little liberal with the truth. Right now, there is only one 5G enabled SIM-only plan and that is a 12-month contract; 50GB with an extra 50GB (why not just call it 100GB?). I should also note that the staff at O2 all seem to be wildly differently informed about the plans as several gave me conflicting answers. So, take everything with a pinch of salt, but the consensus seems to be that 5G plans are coming, soon – ish. The only date noticed indicates a “by the end of November” timeline. So, it would seem that while O2 has actually launched their 5G network and got masts up and running, the managers there haven’t been able to come up with the new plans in the few years or so they have had to prepare for 5G.

It remains to be seen what their full rollout will look like but this isn’t a very good start is it? Let me know your experiences in the comments.

About Mark Ramos

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