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Three to launch 5G in August

Operator claims its contiguous block of 5G-ready mobile spectrum will put it streets ahead of its rivals

Three will become the third UK mobile network operator (MNO) to launch a 5G mobile network when it activates its next-generation service in London in August 2019. It follows EE, which launched at the end of May, and Vodafone, which is targeting a launch date in July, likely to be ahead of O2.

Three hopes to have live 5G sites in 25 towns and cities up and down the UK by the end of 2019 through an overall network investment of £2bn, which besides 5G infrastructure includes a new, behind-the-scenes cloud core network built by Nokia, and refarming of redundant 3G spectrum to support more capacity on its 4G network. It has set itself the target of having 80% of its network traffic running over 5G by 2022.

The operator said its 140MHz of 5G-ready spectrum, which includes a 100MHz contiguous block thanks to its  2017 acquisition of fixed wireless access (FWA) specialist UK Broadband, meant it was the only UK operator able to offer a “true” 5G experience at launch, with peak speeds expected to be twice as fast as on EE or Vodafone, which own 50MHz and 40MHz of 5G spectrum, respectively.

This may prove a critical point when it comes to user experience and service quality on the new network, because Three believes that its customers, who already use more mobile data on average than any other UK network, will be using 13 times more data by 2025.

“It is clear that consumers and businesses want more and more data,” said Three CEO Dave Dyson. “We have the UK’s best network for data and we have led the market on customer usage on both 3G and 4G technologies.

“We have worked hard over a long period of time to be able to offer the best end-to-end 5G experience. 5G is a game-changer for Three, and of course I am excited that we will be the only operator in the UK that can offer true 5G.”

Three’s customers wanting to use the service at launch will need to have access to either a 5G handset or a home broadband device. Computer Weekly understands that like EE, Three will not be stocking Huawei 5G handsets at launch.

Read more about consumer 5G

  • EE launched the UK’s first official 5G network this week, but with limited availability and 4G networks improving all the time, industry watchers say there is no big impetus for users to upgrade yet.
  • Potential early adopters of 5G say they expect, on average, to pay more for their devices and services, but they expect measurable improvements on 4G from the get-go.
  • O2 has been working with the Wireless Infrastructure Group to enhance mobile connectivity indoors and in public spaces as it preps for 5G.

Besides London, the cities in which it will begin rolling out 5G this year are: Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Reading, Rotherham, Sheffield, Slough, Sunderland and Wolverhampton.

To find out more about Three’s ambitions in the 5G world, and how and why it believes it can win against its larger rivals, read our full interview with strategy and architecture director Phil Sheppard later this week.

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