Three invests £2bn in 5G claiming users can ditch fixed broadband

UK operator Three has announced plans to invest £2 billion into 5G claiming it will be so reliable users can ditch their fixed broadband.

Three has amassed the UK’s largest 5G spectrum portfolio along with new radio equipment to support the new generation network. In addition, the company has linked together 20 data centres via dark-fibre to support high capacities.

“This is a major investment into the UK’s digital infrastructure,” says Dave Dyson, Three UK CEO. “UK consumers have an insatiable appetite for data and 5G unlocks significant capability to meet that demand.”

Ofcom predicts mobile data traffic by 2025 will be anywhere between 12 and 47 times greater than 2014 levels. Three’s customers are known to be data-hungry, with users consuming 3.5x more data per month than average.

Dyson continues:

“We have always led on mobile data and 5G is another game-changer. Also described as wireless fibre, 5G delivers a huge increase in capacity together with ultra-low latency. It opens up new possibilities in home broadband and industrial applications, as well as being able to support the rapid growth in mobile data usage.

We have been planning our approach to 5G for many years and we are well positioned to lead on this next generation of technology. These investments are the latest in a series of important building blocks to deliver the best end-to-end data experience for our customers.”

As its namesake suggests, Three was the first operator in the UK to launch commercial 3G services back in 2003. The network continued providing data-based innovations – launching the first ‘all-you-can-eat’ data plan, video calls, and free roaming in many countries.

Three says it supports the government’s ambition to roll out 5G as quickly as possible and is working with DCMS to break down the barriers hampering an accelerated rollout. One measure it supports is improving access to public-owned sites to install equipment.

As part of its 5G preparations, Three has:

  • Acquired the UK’s leading 5G spectrum portfolio

  • Signed an agreement for the rollout of new cell site technology to prepare major urban areas for the rollout of 5G devices, as well as enhance the 4G experience

  • Built a super high-capacity dark fibre network, which connects 20 new, energy efficient and highly secure data centres

  • Deployed a world-first – a 5G-ready, fully integrated cloud-native core network in the new data centres, which at launch will have an initial capacity of 1.2TB/s, a three-fold increase from today’s capacity, and can scale further, cost-effectively and quickly.

  • Rolled out carrier aggregation technology on 2,500 sites in busiest areas, improving speeds for customers

Dyson believes 5G will be so reliable and fast that most homes will no longer need a fixed-line home broadband connection. If so, households could save money by going for mobile data plans.

A true broadband replacement wasn’t possible with 4G for most, primarily due to latency and capacity issues. Some people use 4G for basic tasks, especially in more rural areas, but 5G opens up far more options for more demanding use cases like gaming and VR.

Three provides a 4G all-you-can-eat home broadband service in London called Relish, which the firm acquired last year. Dyson has said the company had to be careful how many people it signed up to prevent service degradation, which he says will not be the case with 5G.

Mobile operators such as Three are making the case that 5G networks will be a more cost-effective option to rollout than laying ‘full-fibre’ connections to households. The UK government has set a target of providing full-fibre countrywide by 2033.

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