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Three UK Test New “world first” Fully Cloud-Based Core Network

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019 (4:55 pm) - Score 11,121
three uk mobile broadband

Mobile operator Three UK has announced that they’ve begun working with Nokia to test a new software-based cloud core network, which they say is a “world first“. This will be used to support the forthcoming roll-out of their next generation 5G services (mobile broadband and fixed wireless).

Apparently this new core network has already been connected to all mast sites (achieved in December 2018) and as a result every customer should be able to “enjoy the benefits” when it goes live after testing is complete. The hope is that this will make their network easier to manage (particularly for capacity) and more cost effective, which in turn could deliver better data speeds, reliability and security.

At present the trial is restricted to Three’s own staff, although the plan is to make it available to the rest of their customers’ sometime later this year. In keeping with this change they’ve also been busy upgrading their data centres and fibre optic links, which is partly thanks to last year’s deal with SSE Enterprise Telecoms (here and here).

Statement from Three

To achieve the latency needed for some 5G applications we are moving our network closer to our customers. Instead of having three data centres based around the London and Midlands areas, we now have 21 data centres spread from as far North as Edinburgh to Portsmouth in the South.

All of these data centres have been connected up with fibre to ensure that they are able to carry traffic from our mast sites into the core network and back out to our customers again as fast as possible. This needs to happen in milliseconds so our customers can snap, stream and post Instagram stories to their heart’s content.

Additional benefits of the new data centres include:

* Lower latency – Faster reaction time on the network – perfect for gaming on our 5G network.

* Higher capacity – Our customers already use 3.5x more data than other UK networks.

* Unlimited capacity – The data centres are managed by an external provider meaning that as traffic on our network grows, we can just add to the space we use in the data centres. That means better reliability and management of our network.


Leave a Comment
38 Responses
  1. Avatar kandikat

    this will be why unlimited tethering is being offered again then.

    • Avatar Derrick Hales

      5G technology is so horrendously dangerous and can be used as a weapon in war please do not even think about having it in this country or any country look up the facts

    • Avatar davidj

      If it nukes your mind it may improve things.

    • Avatar park

      Yes – this sim is going to disappear on the 28th of Feb. it’s been extended another week

    • Avatar Blueacid

      5G as a weapon of war? Really? I don’t think so. Perhaps if it is used to remote control some other kind of drone or similar then MAYBE, but then that’s every form of radio that’s a weapon of war.

      I’ve got news for you about standard household objects, many of which are also weapons of warfare. Sharp kitchen knives, a hockey stick, chemicals from under the sink, hammers etc are also in the same category: Useful but can be put to bad use.

      In what way is 5G different?

  2. Avatar AnotherTim

    Well done Three!

  3. Avatar Michael V

    I admire Three. They are testing wondering new. Well done!

  4. Avatar Craig

    Would this improve signal in London?

    • Avatar Jonny

      Presumably this is in reference to the really awful data speeds? I don’t think those are due to issues in the core of the network, but more to do with cell congestion or lack of backhaul. Though you’d have to hope that they wouldn’t do all this work and want to position themselves as the network for 5G data unless they were also planning to fix the issues at the network edge.

  5. Avatar bob

    Will this benefit their MVNO’s like SMARTY?

    • Avatar kaptainkandikat

      smarty have started offering 1000gb a month, so possibly

    • Avatar Michael V

      Hello Bob. Yes it will benefit all MVNOs that use Three’s networks. Smarty doesn’t use their ‘SuperVoice’ / VoLTE network so experience will improve over 4G [data network] & 3G network.
      Hope that helps.

    • Avatar park

      I am on the Smarty unlimited plan – the reason? as well as unlimited Smarty also zero rate MMS and I send about 150 a month (we don’t all use whatsapp crap) so that’s a bonus they have over everyone else.

      and no contract- £25 is good though for what they provide

  6. Avatar Name

    Will that fix poor network coverage, capacity and 100Mbit/s uplinks?

    • Avatar kaptainkandikat

      the story suggests they will have unlimited capacity.

      Unlimited capacity – The data centres are managed by an external provider meaning that as traffic on our network grows, we can just add to the space we use in the data centres. That means better reliability and management of our network.

      so yes

    • Avatar Jim Weir

      The comment on unlimited capacity refers only to the Data Centre – in effect space / size by using 3rd party DC they can grow capacity whenever needed in any of the DC locations or add new DC locations.

      This has nothing to do with cell site capacity or cell backhaul. That will continue to improve as they migrate away from their old 100Mbps Bearers to 10Gbps Bearers which is more related to the deal with SSE telecom.

  7. Avatar Meadmodj

    This is primarily preparation for the fierce campaigning of the mobile providers later this year as they all jostle for the early 5G market.

    What is key is that Huawei have recently launched a range of 5G devices from lamppost units to CPE. They have also been working with BT/EE.

    Three of course launched a new broadband deal recently based on the 4G Huawei B311 recently as 4G routers have come down in price to facilitate this. But those looking for a 5G broadband service will have to wait some time for 5G routers like the B818 to become readily available and come down in price. But when they do then they may be a game changer.

  8. Avatar dubious

    A distributed network backbone? From a telecoms company of all things? Amazing. :/

  9. Avatar Park

    Still sucks.. even after a capacity upgrade my 4G router is still 1/3 of what Virgin Mobile can deliver. SO this does not fill me with much hope. They are good to tell you they are doing upgrades but not good at anything after that

    • Avatar sam

      the upgrade isn’t going live till later in the year so there still on three data centres atm instead of 21 read it all here

    • Avatar Park


      I must have mis read “and our Cloud-core network is already live. We’re migrating our customers onto it throughout 2019.”

    • Avatar sam

      lets just hope the 5g rollout isn’t like there 4g rollout 🙂

    • Avatar kurstykrab

      February 20, 2019 at 1:35 pm

      This states 2019 so it may well have already started. To say it hasn’t begun is based on your best guess. I’m not sure if that is educated or baseless.

      In any event, the future is exciting.

    • Avatar sam

      my mistake. when it first went on there website it showed late 2019 hopefully its gone live now or soon

  10. Avatar djsat2

    I’d admire them more if they started filling in the numerous blackspots they have all over the country, the network throughput is especilly bad on their congested London network.

    • Avatar krustykrab

      February 20, 2019 at 6:36 am

      Due to the limitations of radio technology, NO NETWORK will ever be able to provide completely blanket coverage.

  11. Avatar TheJono

    I’m confused by what a “Cloud Based Core Network” actually is. I understand the concept of Cloud Based computing and storage – in simple terms you outsource to someone else your servers, storage and applications as it’s cheaper than owning your own kit and data centres and you push the problem of capacity management and upgrades onto someone else.
    Is a Cloud Based Core the same? You outsource the core to someone else, have big fat pipes between everywhere and just pay for what you use? Maybe a little bit of SDN happening in the network as well?
    Is the reality that Three have simply upgraded their core network pushing some of the processing power further towards the edge (21 data nodes rather than 3)? And the Cloud based bit is they are paying Nokia for a managed service?

    • Avatar Michael V

      @TheJono take a look at the 1st three sections of this. It explains what it is.


    • Avatar mike

      It doesn’t really explain. Those descriptions apply to services that existed long before the silly buzzword “cloud” started being thrown around.

    • Avatar Optimist

      “Fog” would decsribe it better.

    • Avatar Michael V

      Just like Google’s G-Drive, we store pictures, videos, audio.

      The big that breaks it down more…

      ‘the network is on premises, but some or all resources used to manage it are in the cloud.’

    • Avatar mike

      People were using off-premises services long before “cloud” was a thing, but then somebody introduced the word “cloud” to try and differentiate a service and now everything is “cloud” because it’s cool, even though these services are no different to the time before there was no “cloud”.

    • Avatar dubious

      As far as cloud being cheaper, it certainly can be for some scenerios, and it can be brilliant for some workloads, but people like Gartner suggest that there isn’t normally anything in it over a few years, and as time goes on cloud becomes more expensive than sweating your assets.

      It does move IT costs from CapEx to OpEx though, which makes the finance people happy for some reason.

    • Avatar TheJono

      So they’ve deployed an SD-WAN into their core network …… just like lots of other operators? But called it something different? That was my question.

    • Avatar Chris

      There are different types of cloud infrastructure, you can have public cloud like Google docs or private cloud with your own or someone else’s hardware underneath, I understand that Three use both public and private for different things but the core should be on a private cloud based in their own DCs. In this case the cloud core means that the functions in the mobile core network that would have been done with specialised hardware in previous generations are now software (virtualized) that can be run in their cloud. This means that they are more power efficient, scalable and can also be moved closer to the edge of the network rather than all based in a few DCs with higher latency. Hope it helps!

  12. Avatar mike

    People were using off-premises services long before “cloud” was a thing, but then somebody introduced the word “cloud” to try and differentiate a service and now everything is “cloud” because it’s cool, even though these services are no different to the time before there was no “cloud”.

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