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Three chooses SSE for 5G fibre backhaul

SSE Enterprise Telecoms will connect Three’s mobile network into BT’s local telephone exchanges as the mobile operator ramps up its preparation for 5G

Mobile network operator (MNO) Three has enhanced its collaboration with SSE Enterprise Telecoms to connect its network into BT’s local telephone exchanges, facilitating fibre backhaul connections from mobile masts to datacentres, as it lays the groundwork for its future 5G mobile network.

Having made telecoms history in the UK 15 years ago when it became the first operator to launch 3G services (on 3 March 2003), Three has leapt into an early lead in terms of 5G preparation after acquiring a tranche of spectrum through its 2017 acquisition of UK Broadband that essentially derisked the recent Ofcom auction of 5G spectrum for it.

The organisation now controls the largest amount of contiguous 5G spectrum in the UK by some margin, which gives it a compelling incentive to be first to market over its rivals, EE, O2 and Vodafone, so that it can lure away some of their customers for itself by promising them more stable, widespread 5G coverage.

Earlier in 2018, Three embarked on its 5G journey when it signed up SSE Enterprise Telecoms to build new fibre connections into 20 datacentres all over the UK.

The expansion of this agreement to connect it into BT exchanges will enable Three to connect thousands of cell sites to its core network using fibre.

The MNO is taking advantage of a new metro-packet optical networking technology service from Infinera, which SSE rolled out across its network in June 2018 in a bid to ease fears among operator customers over a lack of access to backhaul fibre, particularly dark fibre.

The service uses Infinera’s XTM product, a Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) platform, which works by transmitting data from several sources over the same fibre using different light wavelengths. Infinera uses an 88-channel architecture, and each channel supports wavelengths carrying either one or two 100Gbps payloads.

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This means SSE can offer Three both 100Gbps or fractional 100Gbps services using either pure optical, packet optical, wavelength or filtered light services, increasing the capacity and reach of the network.

For Three, the service brings immediate benefits for customers because it greatly enhances the existing 4G network.

But at the same time, it will enable the operator to increase its network capacity by 20 times ahead of the launch of 5G, supporting the accompanying explosion in data usage – Three is notable in the UK for the high amount of data its customers use, and it reckons they could be burning through 90GB of data per month just seven years from now.

“By significantly increasing our access to fibre, we are putting our network on the best footing possible to take advantage of the benefits of 5G technology,” said Three CTO Bryn Jones. “Our customers use 3.5 times more data per month than the average UK consumer and this deal will help us maintain our leadership in providing a fantastic data service.”

“Fibre is essential to the UK’s digital future and more needs to be done to improve its availability to ensure that the UK benefits from 5G at the earliest opportunity.”

Colin Sempill, SSE Enterprise Telecoms MD, added: “5G will allow Three UK to grow capacity on its network more than 20-fold. But for 5G to live up to its potential, the right infrastructure must be in place. High capacity fibre connectivity is absolutely critical.

“We’re fully invested in supporting the UK’s digital ambitions, demonstrated in our recent investments in expanding our network, and it’s exciting for us to be playing such an important role in Three UK’s journey towards a 5G future for consumers and businesses.”

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