Heralded as the utlra-fast tech that promises to speed us into the future, 5G is the talk of the smartphone industry. And both EE and Vodafone have already launched 5G networks that deliver mind-boggling download speeds in some of London’s busiest streets.
But rather than limiting its offering to the UK, Vodafone has added 5G roaming to its already outstanding unlimited plans. This means that customers on a 5G plan can also access the super-speedy network in some of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations.
So we hopped on a plane and flew to Madrid to test it out. Here’s how we got on.
Want to know more about how 5G performs closer to home? Check out our 5G review.
Where can you get 5G roaming?
As well as London, Vodafone customers on a 5G plan can currently connect to a 5G network for no extra cost in Spain, Italy and Germany.
How fast is it?
We’ve already tested out Vodafone’s incredibly quick 5G offering on the streets of London and got speeds of up to around 200mbps, which is roughly 10 times as fast as the sluggish speeds we often experience in busy areas.
But these faster 5G speeds meant that we could scroll through Facebook without any lag, stream videos instantly and download games and movies in seconds.
But while that was impressive, what we saw in Madrid surpassed even the lightning-quick network we tested in London. We were getting speeds of nearly 500mbps, making it an incredible 20 times faster than the 4G speeds we’ve been getting in London.
What are the benefits of 5G roaming abroad?
This may sound impressive, but just how useful is it? 4G is already pretty speedy after all. And besides, isn’t going on holiday the perfect time to do a bit of a digital detox and switch off from your smartphone?
Well, as nice as that sounds, it’s pretty impractical nowadays. Whether you need to call up your hotel booking confirmation, check Google Maps or get an Uber to the airport, you’re not likely to get very far without your phone.
And it’s times like these when having super-fast internet can make all the difference. Here are some benefits we found using 5G roaming.
Checking in for your flight
Pretty much all airlines have an app that lets you check in 24 hours before your flight. This not only saves you time at the airport, but many airlines also let you choose your seat for no extra cost.
And with all the aisle and window seats being snapped up early, 5G definitely gave us an advantage in choosing the good seats near the exit to save us valuable time when we landed.
Downloading entertainment minutes before your flight
We’re all used to being able to access a world of entertainment on our phones all day every day. But when you’re in the air and your phone’s in flight mode, even a short flight can feel like forever.
Still, with 5G, you can download movies, box sets and games in a fraction of the time that it takes on 4G. So while I was in the queue to board the plane, I managed to download a whole season of Parks and Rec to keep me amused on the flight home.
Loading Google Maps and recommendations with zero lag
Before the days of smartphones, navigating around a foreign city could be a bit daunting. But with 5G, you can use all the apps we’ve come to rely on, such as Google Maps and Trip Advisor with absolutely no lag. So you can get a great restaurant recommendation and get yourself there with Google Maps or Uber without waiting for even a millisecond of buffering.
And once you get to the restaurant, apps like Google Translate or Bixby Vision if you’re a Samsung user, will let you translate foreign menus instantly into clear, coherent English.
Sharing memorable moments instantly
And of course, one of the most important things about going on holiday nowadays is sharing photos and videos to make your friends and family jealous.
As I was wandering around the streets of Madrid, I was able to upload sunny snaps to Facebook and Instagram without any delay. And when we visited the Bernabeu stadium, I managed to get ultra-fast 5G coverage.
So I was able to send photos and videos to my very jealous brothers instantly. And let’s be honest, there’s no greater way to measure the success of a technological innovation than in how much it helps you to annoy your nearest and dearest.