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EE Get the Hump Over Three UK’s “Real 5G” Mobile Advert Claim UPDATE

Monday, August 19th, 2019 (2:57 pm) - Score 6,102
three_uk_5g_advert

If it’s not Three, it’s not real 5G” said Three UK this morning (here) when promoting the launch of their new 5G based ultrafast mobile broadband network. In response rival operator EE (BT) is reported to have lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over the slogan, which they say is “misleading“.

At present it’s probably unwise for any mobile operators to be making “our 5G is better than your 5G” style absolute claims because all such networks currently suffer from extremely limited – as well as different – coverage and with very few customers able to harness them. This doesn’t make for a particularly representative test of real-world performance.

Not to mention that mobile networks are inherently very variable platforms, which means that their performance can change due to all sorts of different factors, such as your choice of end-user hardware (Smartphone, mobile router etc.) and signal reception as you move around a highly changeable (mobile) environment.

Admittedly this has never stopped operators from trying to bend the advertising rules to their favour before and so the same happened again today when Three UK began promoting their new service on social media – Facebook and Twitter – alongside the slogan: “If it’s not Three, it’s not real #5G.”

Naturally that didn’t go down too well with rival operator EE, which is reported by The Guardian to have lodged a complaint with the ASA. Now if you want to get really picking then we have the ITU’s “minimum requirements” for a 5G network under their IMT-2020 specification (here), which in a dense urban mobile environment would require the network to deliver at least 100Mbps download, 50Mbps upload and 4ms (milliseconds) of latency.

We can’t speak to the latency times yet (not enough data for a solid comparison) but we’ve seen EE, Vodafone and Three UK all delivering above this on 5G for downloads and uploads within their initial patches of coverage (heck they’ve shown the same on 4G too, albeit only in a few areas).

However we suspect Three UK’s slogan stems from the ITU’s other requirement, which is that 5G must be able to harness 100MHz of “bandwidth” (spectrum frequency), which at present only they can do. By comparison Vodafone only has 50MHz of 5G spectrum, while EE and O2 both hold 40MHz in the 3.4GHz band. But crucially this will change next year as Ofcom auctions more spectrum off to the operators.

Nevertheless there are other aspects to the 5G standard and it is not yet clear whether Three UK could prove that they’re able to tick off all of those in order to claim “real 5G.” As we said above, it’s probably a bit too soon for any of the operators to be making such claims. No doubt the ASA will now examine this and, much as usually happens, probably reach a conclusion long after the slogan has finished being used. By then we might at least have enough data to do a better comparison.

UPDATE 20th August 2019

A spokesperson for EE told ISPreview.co.uk: “Three’s claim to be the only real 5G network is entirely false, and deliberately aimed at misleading consumers. Our customers have been using real 5G since we launched the UK’s first 5G network, back in May.”

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Mark Jackson
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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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15 Responses
  1. Avatar Michael

    Ha! The Operators throwing mud at eachother again! EE are probably stressing as they don’t already have the amount of spectrum they want for 5G. But they have loads of LTE spectrum anyway. I find it amusing when they slam each others advertising campaigns!

    It’s someone else’s turn to have the fastest network! Bring it on Three!

    • Avatar SuperFast Dream

      I think it could be BT that are stressing.

      Having purchased EE to cover part of their USO commitment on the cheap so to say, (this was and still is my own opinion as to why they bought them) that last thing they would want is those potential USO customers signing up for Three’s services instead when BT have been awarded the lion’s share of the contract. Thus, it could possibly make BT’s purchase of EE, well, a waste of money, oops.

  2. Avatar Mike

    Three should have said “not as real” then it’d be technically correct from a spectrum pov.

    • Avatar 5G Infinity

      They could also say, “the most efficient 5G” as their 120MHz holding allows them to run a single 100MHz channel, that should give them 2x if not more [spectral] efficiency over EE’s 40MHz holding.

  3. Avatar Omar

    EE Probably annoyed rip off company that charges extra for 5G.

  4. Avatar cry babies

    Sounds an entirely valid claim by three to me if the ITU says 5G must be able to harness 100MHz of spectrum frequency, then three are indeed the only ones currently able to do that.

    Not shocked the complaint comes from a BT group business, a company that has been selling “FTTC” for years even though that according to MTU spec is technically FTTN for a great number of people. (IE the copper bit is over 1000ft or 300m for many).

    • Avatar SimonM

      Yes and Three give reason to their claim on the FAQ page: http://support.three.co.uk/SRVS/CGI-BIN/WEBISAPI.DLL?Command=New,Kb=Mobile,Ts=Mobile,T=Article,varset_cat=signal,varset_subcat=3804,Case=obj(13699))#144097

      “What we mean by ‘Real 5G’

      We deliver our 5G network using purely 5G spectrum, and we have 140MHz of it – more than any other network. What’s more, 100MHz of our 5G spectrum is contiguous (i.e. in a single block) and in the most usable frequency range. These features make our spectrum most efficient to deploy technically, supporting faster speeds and enabling a better customer experience of the power and potential of 5G.

      In fact, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) standards indicate that to deliver a 5G network, you may need to have a minimum of 100MHz of 5G spectrum. Right now, we’re the only UK mobile network to have over this amount.“

      If EE doesn’t have that, then it seems they don’t really have much of a case.

  5. Avatar mike

    After years of enjoying its huge spectrum advantage for 4G services, EE is now throwing its toys out of the pram after the tables have turned.

    • Avatar Michael V

      Exactly!
      [Like I mentioned in 1st comment, they got so much LTE spectrum, much still unused too! That’could’ be used for 5G-NR!]

  6. Avatar kaptainkandikat

    EE, a BT company. enough said.

  7. Avatar Ryan

    Petty much want Mike said EE is throwing the toys out of the pram.

    Unlike the 4G launch where EE got a head start and launched it before ever other network this time they all launched 5G around the same time EE probably woried they not going be oven the most 5G spectrums.

    The other thing EE is doing like they did on 4G launched is having a 5G plan where Three ever plan is 5G ready.

  8. Avatar Tim

    If only Three would bring this to Rural areas!

  9. Avatar 5G Infinity

    Mark,

    Re the 4ms (milliseconds) latency, all the UK MNO’s will be using 3.5GHz to deliver 5G certainly for this year. According to Ofcom (and EC) technical harmonisation document, to allow both 4G and 5G to co-exist in this band (it is a technology neutral band as well as being a 5G candidate band) the frame alignment has been set such that the minimum latency time is 10ms.

    That means 4ms cannot currently be delivered.

  10. Avatar Adam

    Funny that EE spent years saying “best fastest network” but soon as another network starts overtaking them they throw there toys out the pram!

  11. Avatar kaptainkandikat

    EE,

    this is not the mobile phone network you are looking for.

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