O2 confirms plan to launch 5G network in 2019
O2 has confirmed it will launch its own 5G network this year, with Belfast set to be one of the first cities in the UK to avail of the technology.
Chief executive Mark Evans has said O2 is "committed to launching 5G this year" and is "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".
In February O2 has said it will start rolling out its 5G network in 2019, beginning in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London.
Last month Belfast was also one of the first cities in the UK to benefit from EE's new 5G network.
The city was one of six to receive the technology alongside; London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Manchester.
Belfast has not been included by Vodafone among the seven UK cities to set to avail of 5G technology from July
The telecoms firm's 5G network will launch in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and London on July 3, with 12 more towns and cities to be added by the end of the year.
Research published earlier this year by Barclays suggested that 5G could generate almost £300 million a year for the north's economy
The report states that an accelerated rollout of 5G and an enhanced uptake amongst UK businesses and consumers would supercharge the north's economy by up to £283m per year by 2025, while the expected pace of development would add an estimated £229m annually in six years.
Even a slower rollout and limited use would still deliver around £141m of added revenue, according to the research.