5G overtakes 3G on Three UK network

Operator’s Mobile Britain 2022 report reveals how nation is making the best of connectivity and reveals that 5G handset usage quadrupled in 2021 and use of its 5G network has increased by 385% since 2020

Phone calls have made a comeback, streaming is driving weekly data surges – in particular from football – but most significantly, 5G is booming in the UK, says a research study from operator Three UK.

The report, Mobile Britain 2022, shows how Brits have been swiping, sharing and connecting, and the proprietary data revealed a 5G boom in the past year, with Three reporting usage on its next-generation network increasing by 385% year-on-year.

Looking at the growth of networks in the Covid-shaped working years, Three UK said that if the last two years have shown anything, it is that good connectivity is essential for the big and the small moments. It said 5G is the future of connectivity, saving us 23 hours of download time every month.

Significantly, Three UK customers were said to be embracing 5G “wholeheartedly”, with 5G usage now exceeding 3G, said the report. Indeed, 5G data carried on Three’s network was found to be more than double that of 3G – overtaking it for the first time.

As it continues its roll-out of 5G networks across the country, the operator expects 5G to reach up to 35% of data usage by the end of 2022. The study said the desire for faster connectivity has been driven by more widely available 5G devices, with the number of 5G devices connecting to Three’s network increasing by four times by the end of 2021 compared with the same time a year earlier. This 299% growth from December 2020 to Dec 2021 meant that 2.2 million 5G devices were connecting to the network.

The operator stressed that it was not just the shift to 5G that had become evident in the past year. Mobile Britain 2022 showed that in the past six months, streaming video on Sundays was responsible for two of the largest monthly peaks, as well as almost a quarter of last year’s weekly peaks. Three UK expects this pattern to continue.

So far in 2022, Sundays have been the days with the highest peak usage for four out of eight weeks. Despite the UK having an appetite for a wide variety of sport, 81% of monthly data peaks were linked to football matches in the last two years. December 2021’s  Manchester United versus Arsenal Premier League match generated the highest monthly data peak of all in 2021.

Three UK chief network officer Carlo Melis said it was a case of out with the old, in with the new for mobile users in the UK. “5G has taken off like never before and it is telling that it has now surpassed 3G data usage on our network,” he said. “Superfast connectivity is the future for our customers – with sport and entertainment streaming two of the key drivers of data surges in the last year.

“To keep up with the demand for data, we are investing more than £2bn in transforming our network and IT infrastructure, with 5G now live in over 370 locations covering more than a third of the UK population.”

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