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A meeting with Three UK. The #Roadto5G

With 5G being a big point of discussion, I was kindly invited to London and given the chance to listen to the plans that Three had coming up.

Joining select members of the media, I got to meet CEO Dave Dyson, and from Head of Network Strategy, Phil Sheppard.

Three UK CEO Dave Dyson

This meeting came on the same day EE announced their 5G trial network in London, so it was very interesting to see what Three up their sleeve.

During the event there were some key points pointed out…

An average Three customer today uses 7GB of data in the UK. This is 3 and a half times more than other networks, and with the increase in data use, by 2025 the company say this could be as high as 90GB per customer.

There have been a lot of comments online about the low amount of money spent to secure a smaller 20Ghz portion of 5G spectrum verses the 40Ghz and 50Ghz from rivals EE and Vodafone. However, Three has the purchase of UK Broadband in their armoury. With it came a huge 124Ghz of 5G-usable spectrum, thanks also to the 20Ghz picked up in an earlier auction.

This gives Three the largest overall chunk of initial 5G spectrum and puts them in a great position to deliver not only the speed, but importantly the capacity required.

As well as 5G being discussed, there was some important 4G news to share. Something which is no doubt vert important for their many current customers.

First of all they’re busy refarmimg some of the 2100 spectrum used previously for 3G into 4G to help with demand. Once completed, the 4G spectrum will have increased from 20Ghz to 50Ghz, allowing much more capacity and speed.

Three will then be in a position to give speeds of 100Mbps on average by using Carrier Aggregation on the following spectrum bands …

  • 5Ghz of 800
  • 20Ghz of 1400
  • 15Ghz of 1800
  • 10Ghz of 2100

Another key piece of technology being rolled out is called Massive MIMO, this allows the spectrum to work a lot better for performance and also allows the lower frequency to stretch further.

Three have plans for the Relish broadband side of things, but at present they are not giving anything away relating to what or when.

The big question on everyone’s mind is, will the network still be able to offer AYCE data on 5G like they did on 4G? This wasn’t answered at the event as Three still have many obstacles to overcome before any 5G tariffs can be announced.

Three have been busy upgrading the core network in a deal with Nokia which will be the first in the UK and also allow for faster upgrades in the future. This will be completed by the second half of 2018. The new network will have data centres spread around the country, which will mean faster connections between devices and the network. Far faster than is currently possible.

New IT systems and testing will be in place in the first half of 2019, with the first range of 5G capable devices due in the second half of next year.

The vibe I got from the event was one of excitement and that 5G will be a huge part of the future for Three. They plan to lead the way too. With the investments in spectrum, core network and system upgrades, 5G should be a huge success for Three in the UK.

So, for now, expect to see a decent amount of 4G improvements with that new spectrum coming in and mast upgrades. However, 5G will be where things really take off.

A big thanks to Three for inviting us along to meet some of the team and find out what they have planned.

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