Three UK broadens 4G, 5G reach

UK operator reveals the pace at which its 5G network is expanding according to an expansion plan announced at end of 2020 and gives visibility into its 4G net build

Three UK has revealed that its next-generation network now reaches 193 towns from 1,250 5G sites.

As an indication of the growth of the 5G net in recent months, December 2020 data from mobile speed test firm Ookla showed that in the third quarter of 2020, Three UK was the fastest 5G operator in the country, boasting speeds of up to 201Mbps and available in 154 towns and cities throughout the UK, serviced by 800 sites. It ended the year with 1,000 sites and Three said it expects hundreds more sites to come online before the end of 2021.

As well as offering additional 5G coverage, the operator’s 4G connectivity has received a boost with the addition of 20MHz of 1,400MHz spectrum added to 1,500 sites in Three UK’s portfolio. This, said the company, will increase download speeds by up to three times for about four million customers.

The extra spectrum means that the capacity of its 4G network, on the sites where it has been deployed, has been doubled. About four million customers with a 1,400MHz band-capable device are calculated to be able to benefit from the speed improvement when connecting to a site with the technology. Devices include iPhone 11 and 12 ranges, Google Pixel range and Samsung’s S8, S9, S9, S10 S20 and S21 ranges, as well as the OnePlus and Oppo devices.

Also, 10Gbps backhaul has been added to more than 3,200 sites, boosting experience for Three UK’s 4G and 5G customers. In February 2020, the mobile operator announced that digital infrastructure platform provider CityFibre had been added to its roster of partners providing backhaul network capability as the new 5G network was expanded. In all, the upgraded sites will have 10Gbps transmission capability, a 20-fold increase in backhaul capacity, which will improve both 4G and 5G speeds.

Three UK said the improvements are all part of the company’s ambition is to deliver better connectivity, and part of a £2bn investment programme to transform its network and IT infrastructure and a five-year programme to deliver what the firm says will be the UK’s fastest 5G network. 

Also, the firm said more of its mobile and home broadband customers will continue to see benefits from the largest 5G spectrum holding throughout the year as its roll-out continues. Three said its 5G home broadband coverage was growing, with 1.6 million households covered by the service, delivering superfast broadband over wireless.

We have made solid progress at the start of 2021 and are meeting our goal to deliver better connectivity, every day, for every customer,” said Three UK chief operating officer Susan Buttsworth. “Our 5G roll-out has made excellent progress with 1,250 sites across 193 towns and cities, and we have made strong improvements to boost the 4G experience for our customers, which has never been more vital with virtual working and home schooling.”

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