Three UK chooses CityFibre as preferred backhaul provider for nationwide 5G roll-out

Digital infrastructure platform provider tapped to provide backhaul backbone for roll-out of next-gen mobile infrastructure across the UK

Days after Three announced it had made significant expansion to its 5G network in the UK, the mobile operator has announced that digital infrastructure platform provider CityFibre has been selected to provide backhaul network capability for the new network.

In August 2019, Three UK launched its 5G network in Central London and has commenced rolling out 5G across the rest of the UK. The network technology uses 100MHz of contiguous 3.4-3.8GHz 5G spectrum in combination with what it claims is the world’s first fully virtualised cloud core network with Nokia.

At launch, the network was initially available in London and Three claimed it had a greater amount of contiguous 5G-ready radio spectrum than either EE, O2 or Vodafone, thanks in part to its 2017 acquisition of UK Broadband.

On 14 February, Three announced it had continued its 5G roll-out and would be making the service available in locations across the UK, including London, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Coventry and Nottingham from the end of the month.

To support the national roll-out, CityFibre has been made a preferred provider of backhaul connectivity outside London. The long-term framework deal enables Three to uses CityFibre’s growing national full fibre network to support its roll-out of 5G services.

After acquiring FibreNation from UK internet service provider (ISP) TalkTalk Group in January 2020, a move the company said established itself as the as the UK’s third national digital infrastructure platform, CityFibre has embarked on an aggressive fibre roll-out across the UK. The latest developments in this strategy was being awarded a 20-year contract by the City of Wolverhampton Council to provide a full-fibre network solution that connects public sector estate, including schools, libraries and offices.

The first phase of the agreement with Three will see CityFibre provide backhaul connectivity to Three’s cell sites, with hundreds of sites already planned for connection this year across a number of CityFibre’s Gigabit City projects. The first connections to sites will go live in the summer, supporting Three’s 2020 5G roll-out programme.

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By underpinning its 5G spectrum holding with full fibre backhaul, CityFibre says that Three will be able to offer the UK’s fastest 5G network for consumers, businesses and home broadband customers. It adds that its dark fibre connectivity will provide Three with the required capacity to meet the growing demand for mobile data.

Three will also have access to CityFibre’s full product portfolio, including small cell access points throughout its city-wide networks, providing local fibre capacity to support 5G services in busy urban areas.

“A competitive fibre backhaul market is critical for the fast and efficient roll-out of 5G,” said Dave Dyson, CEO at Three UK. “CityFibre are aggressively rolling out fibre across Britain and our strategic partnership with them will use the UK’s largest 5G spectrum portfolio to deliver the fastest 5G network nationwide.”

“Our networks have been designed to support both the technology and the insatiable demand for data throughput required to power 5G networks and services,” said CityFibre CEO Greg Mesch.

“Three’s decision … shows the critical role full fibre infrastructure has in underpinning 5G roll-outs. This deal will not only help accelerate 5G coverage throughout the UK, but also further accelerate our roll-out of full fibre coverage nationwide.”

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