Chinese smartphone manufacturer OnePlus has agreed to supply its latest 5G smartphone to BT’s mobile network provider, EE, when the latter launches the UK’s first 5G mobile network next year.
Earlier this year, EE announced plans to launch 5G service in 16 cities in the UK starting next year. The agreement means that OnePlus will be among the first smartphone manufacturers to obtain network coverage for its new handset on the 5G network.
Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer Division, said: “EE and OnePlus have a shared vision: to give our customers the best connected experience possible. We’re working together on cutting-edge technology to deliver that, and we’re leading the world on the journey to 5G.”
While China, South Korea and Japan have been making steady progress on 5G technology, EE is the first network to announce an agreement with a manufacturer to supply 5G smartphones, a move that could impact smartphone buyers in the UK.
In addition to OnePlus, both Samsung and Huawei have confirmed that they are working on their own versions of a 5G smartphone.
In an interview with the Telegraph, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau said: “Countries like Japan and Korea will be fast to 5G, but also Europe. In Europe, we are definitely seeing very quick movement towards 5G, and we will have a 5G device in the first half of next year in Europe.”
Lau said that the company plans to release its 5G smartphone during the first half of 2019, adding that the device will cost “significantly more” than its current models, which retail for £450.
The new OnePlus 5G smartphone will incorporate Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 855 processor and most likely its accompanying X50 5G modem. Lau confirmed to TechRadar that the company plans to introduce both a 4G and a 5G version of its new flagship phone, the OnePlus 7. “Because 5G will be very much for a small unique portion of enthusiasts, we’ll have a 4G product also developed and available in parallel,” he said.
Consumers cannot use their current smartphones to connect to the faster 5G network, which will require new phones equipped with the latest mobile technology, mostly manufactured by rival chip makers Intel and Qualcomm. Currently, there are no smartphones available to UK consumers with the capability to connect to a 5G network.
Upgrading the current 4G mobile network using 5G technology will provide consumers with dramatically higher speeds for downloads and online connections, as demonstrated by EE’s recent tests of the technology.
In the US, Verizon and AT&T both have announced that they will use Samsung’s first 5G handset after they upgrade their networks to 5G. Analysts believe that Apple is also working on developing a 5G smartphone, but the company should not be releasing it until 2020.
EE said that it will most likely charge its customers “a little bit more” to connect to its 5G network than its 4G network.