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Three UK in L-Band Rollout as Mobile Data Usage Per User Hits 9.1GB

Thursday, August 1st, 2019 (10:32 am) - Score 4,232

Mobile operator Three UK has today released their latest results to the end of June 2019 (H1 19 financial), which amongst other things revealed that monthly Mobile Broadband (3G / 4G) data usage per customer grew from 8.3GB (GigaBytes) last quarter to 9.1GB now. Plus they plan a rollout of L-Band technology to boost 4G.

As usual Three UK continues to produce users with a higher level of data consumption than any other network, which is mostly down to their affordable allowances and unlimited data plans (HomeFi). Meanwhile 4G now accounts for 82% of total network traffic (up from 79% last quarter) and that’s because 87% of their customer base are using it (up from 84% – we assume the rest are still on 3G).

The operator’s total active network “connections” have also reached 11.7 million (up from 11.3m last quarter), which stems from an “active customer base” of 10,234,000 (up from 10,026,000). Meanwhile their gross Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) is running at £18.26 (up from £18.23) and total revenue for H1 2019 stood at £1,167m (down from £1,186m in H1 2018).

Three UK also says they have “830,000 broadband customers,” which we assume is primarily a reference to their dedicated Mobile Broadband plans and possibly including some of their Three Broadband (formerly Relish Wireless) ISP subscribers.

The announcement also gave an update on a beta trial for their future 5G powered Three Broadband fixed wireless service in Camden (London), which is said to be delivering live 5G connectivity with average download speeds of 138Mbps (compared to 25Mbps on their 4G network).

Dave Dyson, CEO of Three UK, said:

“The second half of 2019 will see the most important and exciting milestone in our history since we launched the UK’s first 3G network in 2003.

Three has a long history of putting UK consumers first and the launch of the UK’s fastest 5G network using our leading 5G spectrum portfolio and investment in world class cloud-based infrastructure means that we can disrupt the UK’s home broadband network, at the same time as serving our data-hungry mobile customers.

Against this backdrop of huge investment in network and IT infrastructure and some dual running costs as we reach this milestone, I am pleased with the underlying strength of the business. Our customer satisfaction score remains the highest of all the MNOs reflected by the low levels of churn.

Our people are our most valuable asset, so I am also pleased with the progress we have made towards our goal of becoming the best loved brand by our employees by 2023. Our employees want mental health and wellbeing to be more than just buzzwords at Three, it is something they wish to be at the core of our strategy and through a range of initiatives, we are helping to make Three a great place to work and be the best version of yourself that you can be.”

One other interesting aspect of Three’s results announcement is their confirmation of a plan for the “nationwide” rollout of L-Band technology, which they said would “lead to further substantial speed and coverage improvements, in addition to using 3G spectrum for 4G.” This is a reference to the 20MHz slice of the 1.4GHz band (1452-1492MHz) that they and Vodafone scooped up all the way back in August 2015 (here).

At the time the 1.4GHz band wasn’t widely used for Mobile Broadband connectivity and as such it has taken quite a long time to develop a solution for its commercial deployment, although Three UK now appears to be making progress on this. Sadly no further information was included but we assume this is coming soon if they’ve chosen to announce it.

Otherwise the rest of today’s results largely repeat everything we know about next month’s 5G launch (here).

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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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19 Responses
  1. Avatar Michael V says:

    Just a note…
    (up from 84% – we assume the rest are still on 2G or 3G)

    Maybe U should delete the 2G reference as they don’t have a GSM network or roaming agreement!

  2. Avatar Michael V says:

    I was wondering what they were doing with their 1400MHz block! Good to know they will be putting it to 4G use.

  3. Avatar André says:

    I’d be back with them in a jiffy if only they’d support eSIM on the iPhone XS…

    1. Avatar Michael V says:

      I hear esim support is coming at some point after 5G launch.
      Just wondering, Why do U want esim?

    2. Avatar André says:

      I have my work number on a SIM (it’s a corporate thing on Vodafone) so want my personal line on eSIM
      Works quite well, but had to move to EE and they’ve been disappointing so far…

  4. Avatar Mike says:

    Hopefully they rollout more 4G+ so rurals aren’t just stuck on 800Mhz all the time.

    1. Avatar 1pF says:

      Could not agree more, will the roll out help us in rural areas? I use 3 and get 15-25mb(depending on time of day). Would love faster but gigaclear have failed time and time again along with Fastershire to install and have moved from BT as I was getting a huge 3mb. Have an external antenna along with tplink mr600 and thus is a really capable device for up to 300/150…would love 30mb to in total

  5. Avatar Archie says:

    Anyone know which phones support L-Band? Any of the iPhones?

    1. Avatar Michael V says:

      None support 1400MHz. But with Three & Vodafone now making use of it we will start to see devices spring the band. I think Three could start with their Mi-Fi devices.

    2. Avatar Kevin says:

      It’s band 32, which I know the latest iPhones support.

    3. Avatar John Holmes says:

      If it is band 32 then my B525 router supports that and already does aggregation as I currently connect on band 3 15 Mhz but it also connects band 20 5 Mhz for heavy downloads.

    4. Avatar Michael V says:

      @Kevin. I must have missed that one! That’s good to know

  6. Avatar Tim says:

    But L-Band is downlink only so requires CA with another band that offers uplink.

    Do current phones support this band?

  7. Avatar Lewis says:

    What’s the range of 1400mhz? Is it better than 1800mhz? As i get decent speeds with 1800mhz being rural. Sorry, i’m not well informed with this sort of stuff.

  8. Avatar Michael V says:

    The lower the frequency, the further the signal can travel. It will be better but not a massive difference.

    1. Avatar Lewis says:

      Thanks for that info, Michael. I assume the 1.4ghz band is much better than the 800mhz band in terms of speed.

    2. Avatar tim says:

      The main factors are the bandwidth (5,10,15 or 20MHz) and number of spectral streams (MIMO, 1×1, 2×2, 4×4 etc)

      Three only use 10MHz bandwidth for 800Mhz. If they use 20Mhz with all else the same this will have double the capacity that 800Mhz has. As L-Band is downlink only this will only increase the downlink (download) capacity. The increase would be about 66% in capacity. How this translates into real-world user experience is hard to know. However as no/few devices support L-Band LTE currently the few devices that support this will see a significant increase until device support and the number of users increase.

    3. Avatar Lewis says:

      Thank you for that informative reply! I believe my 4g router supports 1400mhz and is 2×2 MIMO. I think it currently connects too 1800+800 concurrently. It shows 4g+. It would be nice to see what sort of speeds i’ll get with 1800+1400. Not really interested in upload speeds as i rarely upload large files, pics etc. But already get the full 30mbps on the 1800mhz spectrum.

    4. Avatar AnotherTim says:

      @tim, Three only use a single 5MHz channel for a their 800MHz band in lots of rural areas (I believe they have two non-contiguous 5MHz channels for 800Mhz). I’m hoping the L-Band frequencies will reach rural areas before too long to give us a speed boost.

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