O2 confirms 5G network launch will be ‘this year’

5G, News

O2 will be the last of the big networks to launch 5G in the UK, chief executive Mark Evans has said, as the mobile operator announced new billing options for the Apple Watch Series 4.

The UK’s three other largest mobile networks – EE, Vodafone and Three – have either launched or confirmed plans to start rolling out their own networks this year.

Mr Evans said O2 was “committed to launching 5G this year”, and was “excited” to show customers the new experiences it can offer.

The O2 boss was speaking as the operator announced it was adding the Apple Watch to its custom plans scheme, which will enable customers to choose how much they would like to pay for the device and then spread the cost over a time period of their choosing between three and 36 months in order to suit their budget.

He said mobile contract payment plans were currently too rigid and were preventing people from accessing the latest devices.

Mr Evans also said the company was “mindful” of an ongoing Government review into the presence of Chinese firm Huawei in parts of 5G infrastructure, and said he hoped to see a “conclusion made on facts”.

The Government is currently analysing the potential safety risks of using the Chinese company’s equipment to build 5G networks, amid concerns around the company’s software engineering and the security of its networks, and alleged ties between the firm and the Chinese state – accusations Huawei has repeatedly and strongly denied.

Mr Evans acknowledged the UK’s own National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is involved in the analysis of Huawei, is yet to report any security breaches involving the firm and that they currently “meet legislation”.

On its new custom plans for the Apple Watch, the operator boss said mobile networks were failing to offer customers enough flexibility when it came to payment plans, and that locking people into such contracts was preventing many from getting access to new technology.

“The mobile industry should offer greater flexibility to make the power of technology accessible for all,” he said.

“It can’t be right that rigid contracts and inflexibility are still stopping consumers from accessing the benefits and freedom of advanced technology like Apple Watch Series 4, offering breakthrough communication and fitness features.

“At O2 we believe that everyone should benefit from access to technology, so we offer customers the control and flexibility to build plans that best suit their needs.”

O2 published research from YouGov which suggests although less than one in 10 people (9%) currently own a smartwatch, cost was named as one of the biggest barriers to ownership.

According to the research, 81% said they felt trapped by fixed-term contracts for mobile technology, and 89% agree that operators should make monthly contracts payments more flexible.

Chris Price
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