Carrier BT plans to bring 5G to all of UK by 2028, retiring 3G in 2025

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The UK's BT will bring 700Mhz 5G directly to 90% of the country by 2028, with more remote spots served "on demand" with drones.

BT has announced plans to expand its UK 5G network coverage, following regulator Ofcom's auctioning of the 700Mhz and 3.6-3.8GHz spectrum. Ofcom has not decided on the faster mmWave version of 5G, though.

"Over the past 18 months we've helped the UK to meet the demands of a pandemic," said Philip Jansen, Chief Executive of BT Group, in a statement. "We must now look ahead to deliver the strongest foundations to drive future growth."

"We're making a uniquely ambitious, long-term commitment to drive high performance 5G further and faster, and to integrate it at the core with our fibre network for a seamless customer experience," he continued. "[Our] Openreach was first to fibre, EE was first to 5G and together BT will be first to a fully converged future."

According to the Financial Times, BT's plans take in to account the UK's ban on Huawei technology. The carrier estimates that changing from Huawei to alternatives will cost GBP 500 million ($690 million).

By 2023, BT claims that its EE 5G service will reach half of the UK's population. It also plans to boost both 4G and 5G coverage in airports, and on university campuses.

To reach the whole UK, BT says that it is developing 'on demand' services. These will reportedly range from drones and Low Earth Orbit satellites, to "rapid response vehicle" which will be driven to remote areas.

So while the entire UK will in theory be able to utilise 5G, for some areas that will mean getting "temporary mobile connectivity" when customers request it. What BT describes as portable cells will be provided "at a lower cost than building traditional cell sites," though it's not clear whether BT or the requesting customers will pay.

BT's announcement commits to supporting what it describes as the "next generation of 5G capabilities," and plans "to offer high performance 5G solutions across the entire UK." However, the plan utilizes the "new 700Mhz 5G spectrum," which was "recently secured in Ofcom's auction." The only further nod to improved 5G speeds comes with the announcement that the company's 3G service is to be phased out by 2023, with its freed spectrum being used "to enhance 5G capacity."

At present iPhone 12 models sold in the UK can't support that. It is rumored that Apple will bring mmWave 5G capability to more countries with the "iPhone 13," however.

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