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Three UK Starts Ultrafast 5G Home Broadband Trial in London

Tuesday, Jun 18th, 2019 (11:02 am) - Score 16,039

Mobile operator Three UK has confirmed that they’ve begun trials of a new 5G based “home broadband” service in Camden and Wandsworth (London). On top of that they’re also upgrading their 4G kit in Croydon (i.e. upgrading sites to new antennas and reallocating 10MHz of 3G spectrum (leaving 5MHz for 3G) to 4G for better performance).

All of the above is in keeping with the operator’s recently announced plans to launch their future 5G mobile network in 25 towns and cities across the UK by the end of 2019, which is due to begin this August (here). Sadly today’s brief update doesn’t offer any useful details about their planned 5G home broadband product.

At present Three UK has a total of about 140MHz (frequency) across several 5G friendly mobile bands and one of those includes a 100MHz block of contiguous spectrum in the 3.4-3.8GHz band (here), which is ideal for the new service. The operator believes that this will enable them to deliver 2x faster speeds than their rivals at launch, which if true would mean around 200-300Mbps (based on the fact that EE expects 100-150Mbps in the busiest areas).

Naturally there’s a lot of interest in Three UK’s home broadband products, not least since they already offer a 4G Home Broadband package with unlimited data from just £22 per month (HomeFi). On top of that they also run a dedicated wireless ISP brand called Three Broadband (formerly Relish), which predominantly covers central London via some of the same 3-4GHz spectrum bands on 4G.

Three UK’s June 2019 Network Update

5G home broadband trial underway in Camden

Our trial of 5G home broadband is underway in Camden and Wandsworth with sites up and running, delivering live 5G connectivity to participants. The trial is helping us to ensure that when we launch 5G home broadband in August, we are delivering the best possible experience to our customers.

4G equipment upgrade begins in Croydon

But we know the future is not just about 5G, as 4G is going to remain an important technology to our customers for years to come. That’s why we are undertaking a massive programme to reutilise our 3G spectrum for 4G and upgrade the 4G antenna masts on thousands of our sites. We started in Croydon last month by upgrading the sites to new antennas and reallocating 10MHz of 3G spectrum (leaving 5Mhz for 3G) to 4G, significantly improving performance and capacity on our 4G network. This upgrade programme will rolled out to thousands more sites across the UK over the next couple of years.

Full staff trial of Nokia cloud core network

As we build towards the full commercial launch of our new core network provided by Nokia, all Three staff (3.500+) have been involved in testing it out so that we can optimise it for our customers. The new core network is fully 5G-ready and will allow us to manage the massive increase in data usage expected over the next few years.

Transfer of billing records to our new IT systems

99% of customer call detail records and billing data is now flowing through our new IT stack. That equates to billions of calls going over the new network in the three months since we began testing with a staff trial. We are now working towards full implementation but will continue to put the records through our old systems in parallel until the time is right to move only to our new stack.

But it’s not all about the new…….

We reached a new peak for the amount of mobile data traffic carrying over our network during the all-English Champions League final on June 1st. At the busiest time, a whopping 501Gbps was travelling over our network, up 25% from last year’s final and up around 20% on our network’s average daily traffic.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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14 Responses
  1. Avatar photo 5G Infinity says:

    100MHz would support 5CA on 4G Advanced Pro, that would give 1.2Gbps on a Category 18 handset, eg OnePlus 7 Pro without even going near 5G

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Key wording is “in the busiest areas.”

  2. Avatar photo Michael V says:

    I expect Three won’t be far behind Vodafone in decommissioning 3G. refarming the 2100mhz band for VoLTE. It’s good to know they are continuing to do it.

    1. Avatar photo CJ says:

      Three will be a long way behind Vodafone in fully decommissioning 3G. They need to keep some of it for the foreseeable future to support non-VoLTE devices, where Vodafone can use 2G.

      Although Three has more 2100MHz 3G spectrum than Vodafone and they should have been re-farming much of it over to 4G with carrier aggregation years ago, instead they chose to leave some urban masts operating with a single 4G carrier at sub-1Mbps for large parts of the day,

      Hopefully 5G will bring a new era of network investment from Three, instead of them moaning about other networks having too much spectrum while not actually spending the money to make the most of their own.

  3. Avatar photo Dark lord. says:

    Let the nose bleeds and brain tumors commence

    1. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      ….and that’s just from reading the comments on here.

    2. Avatar photo Mike says:

      Daft lord

    3. Avatar photo Archie says:

      Why are people convinced 5G is going to kill us all?

      It’s been the same crap dredged up again… I can remember the same about 2G, 3G and 4G.

    4. Avatar photo Michael V says:

      @Archie… If you ask All these people who are complaining about health risks, you’ll find that none of them can tell U what they are arguing against!!! Some will say it’s the frequency bands, but 5G-NR will work across similar bands that we already have in use. I get mmWave bands haven’t been used before, but neither were the LTE bands before that technology launched. People fail to remember that we are surrounded by high frequency bands in our home. Especially 5.0GHz in our dual band WiFi hubs! It’s all hilarious! We put baby monitors nxt to our children at night, that’s on 2.4GHz band! The list goes on!

  4. Avatar photo Blueacid says:

    I wonder how long it’ll take before this rolls out to greater parts of the country.
    I can honestly see 5G being competitive with FTTC, especially for households who aren’t doing anything too latency-sensitive (streaming video and web browsing).

    1. Avatar photo Mike says:

      If 4G is anything to go by most places should have it by 2023.

      Three might deploy quicker though as they didn’t bother with 4G+ in most areas (presumably saving money for 5G).

  5. Avatar photo Russ says:

    I’m encouraged to read that Three are re-farming their 3G spectrum to improve 4G performance.

    I regularly suffer the poor performance from their 4G network. Even when my device is reporting a good signal strength, Three delivers high latency and low/fluctuating download speeds. A nightmare when using my Mi-Fi to watch Netflix via a ROKU.

    Tethering to my EE 4G handset is worlds apart in terms of performance. Never have these issues, BUT EE is bl**dy expensive. I know the old saying “you get what you pay for”, but it would be nice if Three are able to up their game a little by refarming what they already have.

    1. Avatar photo Michael V says:

      Hey Russ. I’ve seen VoLTE over their 2100MHz band around Cardiff & it’s continually expanding. I hope to see it in my village, not far from the city, as I can’t stream video over 3G-HSPA+ at all when home. They’ve started in busiest areas but they’ll keep refarming the band to VoLTE. Eventually 3G will be decommissioned. Personally I think they should get on with it & get all customers into a VoLTE phone, all their phones they sell are now ‘Supervoice’ / VoLTE, so it wouldn’t be an issue when people are upgrading.

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