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Three UK Launch Live Fully Integrated Cloud Core Network – 5G Ready

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019 (3:01 pm) - Score 5,073

Mobile operator Three UK has today gone live with their new “world’s first” software-based cloud core network, which sits in a virtual environment and will be used to underpin the launch of their new ultrafast 5G based mobile broadband services next month (as well as existing 4G services).

The operator’s new core network – based on systems from Nokia and benefiting from improved fibre optic links via SSE Enterprise Telecoms (here and here) – was connected to all of their mast sites last year and is being managed via 20 new data centres across the United Kingdom. However until today it was only usable by 3,500 of Three UK’s own staff members.

By adopting a virtual approach the operator hopes to make their network easier to manage (particularly for capacity) and more cost effective, which in turn could deliver better mobile data speeds, reliability and security. The new datacentres will also have a positive impact on latency times as the network will now be even closer to end-users (5G can in theory support down to 1 millisecond of latency but achieving this in the real-world is hard).

Apparently Three UK has already begun the process of “seamlessly” migrating their 4G based customer traffic on to the new core network and this work is expected to continue “throughout 2019” as part of a phased upgrade.

Dave Dyson, CEO of Three UK, said:

“Our new core network is part of a series of connected investments, totalling £2 billion, that will provide a significant step change in our customers’ experience. UK consumers have an insatiable appetite for data as well as an expectation of high reliability. We are well positioned to deliver both as we prepare for the launch of the UK’s fastest 5G network.”

Bhaskar Gorti, President of Nokia Software, said:

“This is an exciting time for both Nokia and Three UK, as together we work towards the future of telecommunications networks. This project delivers a joint vision that has been forged from the catalyst of Three’s strategy for complete business transformation. The project will deliver a flexible 5G core network, enabling the next generation of mobile services and cementing Three UK as a true leader of 5G in the UK.”

Nokia may be at the centre of the new core but it also includes a number of other partners who are providing specialist applications which run on or manage the core. For example, Affirmed Networks and Mavenir are being used as applications for Traffic Management and Messaging. Three UK are also working with Exfo, Mycom and BMC for Operational Support System solutions, which are used to manage the Nokia cloud core and the RAN and IT systems.

At the time of writing we don’t know which areas have been the first to connect to the new network and so haven’t been able to run any tests, although it will be interesting to see if there’s a noticeable improvement before and after it goes live.

UPDATE 5:39pm

We had a chat with Three about their new network. Apparently the first live customer traffic actually started in the middle of June, with customers moving between the new system and the legacy system. Currently the migration is performing exactly as planned, with 1.6 million customers and around 1% traffic on the system.

The amount of traffic loaded on the new system will steadily start to increase and they expect this will be around 50% by August 2019. Three UK will also be migrating wholesale customers later in the year.

Leave a Comment
15 Responses
  1. Avatar Dean Mason says:

    Does this mean an improvement in 4g coverage?

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      No it’s about the network that underpins their masts/cells, not coverage itself.

  2. Avatar Mr Steven says:

    I woke up to a text message today from Three saying they are doing work around my area this week. I wonder if this is related?

  3. Avatar Graeme says:

    Esim apparently available from Autumn on Three, so I would suggest that seems to be the rollout based on the new cloud core.

    1. Avatar Ben Mclaughlan says:

      Hi Graeme really interested in esim on three do you have any links to any more information you could share? Thanks Ben

    2. Avatar Graeme says:

      Just what they’re tweeting Ben on @threeuk when anyone asks.

    3. Avatar TechGuy says:

      I found a tweet in this thread from Three
      “we’re happy to share with you, that currently we’re testing eSIMs for various phones to make sure you guys get the best possible experience. we expect to be able to support these in autumn 2019 ’ >NC”

  4. Avatar Blueacid says:

    I wonder if this new core will alter their stance on things like access to their “Supervoice” 4G800 network, and services like Voice over Wifi.
    Currently for Android phones you typically need to have purchased your phone from Three (or flashed their specific firmware onto it).

    Also, I wonder whether they’ll start peering at some of the regional internet exchanges (such as Manchester, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Leeds), taking advantage of having core routers all around the country.

    1. Avatar Danny says:

      I currently have a samsung s10 which is directly from samsung and not 3 and the wifi calling and 4g super voice works out of the box?

  5. Avatar Jack says:

    Would this mean a slight improvement with ping & routing on 3g&4?

  6. Avatar Archie says:

    So… what will I notice?

  7. Avatar Guy Cashmore says:

    Speed, ping and reliability on Three 4G have all improved significantly here in West Devon over the past few weeks. The beer is still on me if you visit the area Dave!

  8. Avatar Michael V says:

    Well done Three! Not seeing a change in Cardiff or the vale of Glamorgan yet! But It’ll come.

  9. Avatar Spencer Davies says:

    They’ve had this network implemented in Hong Kong for past 2 years so it’s been tested atleast 🙂

  10. Avatar Mark says:

    So being on Smarty I should see a difference too at some point? Smarty already said they will be introducing voice over LTE and WiFi calls eventually. I guess the move to this new system will allow the capacity for this.
    Although I don’t agree with 5G as I think it’s signal is still yet to be proved as not dangerous, Three certainly seems to be the ones thinking outside the box here and into the future.

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