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Three has announced a major upgrade programme to improve its mobile network provision in rural parts of Wales, and says it will bring 4G services to 98% of the principality’s population.
The mobile network operator (MNO) has just deployed services over a portion of the low frequency 800Mhz spectrum, which in addition to extending coverage into Welsh not-spots – areas where mobile signal is hard, if not impossible, to come by – will significantly increase indoor coverage.
The roll-out, which is to be run with support from the Welsh Assembly and the Federation of Small Business Wales, will run over the next two years to 2017, at which point Three hopes that virtually the entire population of Wales will be able to access combined 3G and 4G services.
“Customers in Wales already benefit from Three’s 3G network, which provides a high quality and reliable experience to our customers,” said Julian Bass, director of legal-marketing consumer regulatory and external affairs at Three.
“The addition of 4G on low frequency spectrum will further improve connectivity across Wales and once complete, 98% of the Welsh population will enjoy a better experience on our network,” he added.
Despite a smaller overall business than the other big three UK MNOs (EE, O2 and Vodafone), Three, whose owner Hutchison Whampoa is currently in talks to buy up O2, has consistently been well-ranked by market-watchers such as RootMetrics.
As of February 2015, 42% of Three's UK customers were able to access 4G service on its network, and it was leading the market in terms of data usage, with an average of 3.3GB downloaded per calendar month. Three claims it carries 45% of the total mobile data traffic consumed in the UK.
A recent Ofcom report found that although Three’s 4G network speed was on average about half that of EE’s, when it came to page download times it was the best performing network, with the average page taking just over 0.6 seconds to download.