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Three UK Extend Ultrafast 5G Mobile to 193 UK Towns and Cities

Friday, February 26th, 2021 (9:46 am) - Score 5,184
three uk mobile broadband

Mobile operator Three UK has today revealed that their 5G based (mobile broadband) network is now live across busy parts of some 193 UK towns and cities (equating to 1,250 cell sites and masts). On top of that they’re still boosting 4G speeds by extending the reach of their L-Band (1.4GHz) spectrum.

Technically speaking the operator’s new 5G network first started to go live in August 2019, although their availability was initially restricted to central London and the only way to use it was via their dedicated unlimited Three Broadband service. The network finally began to include regular 5G mobile (Smartphone) services in February 2020 (here) and they’ve been busy deploying ever since.

NOTE: Going LIVE with 5G is not the same as achieving total coverage of an area and it can still take many months, or even years, to fully cover a city etc.

The operator currently retains one key 5G advantage over their rivals in that they can harness a total of about 140MHz (frequency) across several related radio spectrum bands. One of those includes a 100MHz block of contiguous spectrum in the 3.4-3.8GHz band (here), which is known to be the sweet spot for 5G speeds.

By comparison their rivals are currently only harnessing a smaller slice of the 3.4GHz band (40-50MHz each), but this doesn’t consider the limited use of dynamic spectrum sharing with existing 4G services. Ofcom’s imminent auction of more radio spectrum in the 700MHz and 3.6-3.8GHz bands may well help to balance all of this out between the operators.

As a result Three UK claims that their 5-year upgrade programme will “deliver the UK’s fastest 5G network,” with Ookla showing that they returned median download speeds in excess of 200Mbps during Q3 2020 (results summary). But this has to be weighed against the fact that they don’t have the strongest 5G availability in the UK (that honour goes to EE) and many of their new coverage locations only have a tiny bit of 5G coverage.

Susan Buttsworth, COO of Three UK, said:

“We have made solid progress at the start of 2021 and are meeting our goal to deliver better connectivity, every day, for every customer. Our 5G roll out has made excellent progress with 1250 sites across 193 towns and cities and we’ve made strong improvements to boost the 4G experience for our customers, which has never been more vital with virtual working and home schooling.”

The “boost” to 4G mentioned above largely reflects their rollout of a 20MHz (spectrum) slice of the 1.4GHz L-Band (1452-1492MHz), which has now been added to 1,500 of their UK cell/mast sites; it’s claimed this “will increase download speeds by up to 3 times,” but that’s only true if you have a device that can actually harness it (Three UK says 4 million of their customers can). More sites will go live during 2021.

NOTE: L-Band device examples include the iPhone 11 and 12, Google Pixel range, Samsung’s S8, S9, S9, S10 S20, S21; as well as recent OnePlus and Oppo devices.

The operator also reports that they’ve upgraded the backhaul capacity across more of their network. A 10Gbps backhaul link has now been added to more than 3,200 sites to help boost their 4G and 5G speeds. All of this work reflects Three UK’s £2bn investment programme to upgrade their national network. Hundreds more 5G sites are also expected to come online before the end of 2021.

However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Three, which originally put all of their 5G eggs in one basket with Huawei and has since had to change that plan (e.g. the new supplier deal with Ericsson). This follows some significant Government flip-flopping over whether or not to ban the Chinese supplier (here).

Finally, the operator noted that “for the first time in the company’s history,” the average data usage, per customer, per month has surpassed 17GB (GigaBytes); driven by customers spending more time at home during the UK’s third lockdown in January 2021. Customer usage has grown in the last year with average data usage, per customer, per month, increasing by 53%. Network demand peaked on 28th January due to streaming of the Tottenham vs Liverpool premier league match. In the last year, peak demand has increased by 37%.

Otherwise, all of Three’s new and existing customers will have access to 5G with “no speed caps and at no extra cost” on all contract, SIM only and PAYG mobile plans.

Full List of Three UK’s 5G Sites (New and Existing)
Aberdeen
Abingdon-on-Thames
Adlington
Aldershot
Aldridge
Ashford
Balloch
Barnsley
Barrow-in-Furness
Basildon
Bath
Bedford
Belfast City
Belfast International Airport (Aldergrove)
Billericay
Billingham
Birdwell
Birkenhead
Birmingham
Bishopthorpe
Blackburn
Blackpool
Borehamwood
Bournemouth
Bradford
Brentwood
Brighton
Brimington
Bristol
Bromsgrove
Brookmans Park
Broughton Astley
Burton-on-Trent
Caerdydd / Cardiff
Campton
Cannock
Carlisle
Casnewydd / Newport
Castlereagh
Chatham
Chelmsford
Cheltenham
Chesham
Chorley
Christleton
Clayton-le-Woods
Clifton
Coedkernew
Colchester
Copmanthorpe
Corringham
Coventry
Crawley
Crook
Cullingworth
Danderhall
Delph
Denholme
Derby
Dewsbury
Dinnington
Doncaster
Dundee
East Kilbride
East Midlands Airport
Edinburgh
Egginton
Ellesmere Port
Exmouth
Falkirk
Gateshead
Glasgow
Gorebridge
Grays
Greenock
Grimsby
Guildford
Hamilton
Hartley
Hatfield
Heanor
Heathcote
Hedge End
Hemel Hempstead
Hertford
Heswall
Heywood
Horley
Horwich
Huddersfield
Huntington
Inchinnan
Ingleby Barwick
Ipswich
Irlam
Isle of Grain
Iver Heath
King’s Hill
Kings Langley
Kingston upon Hull
Kinmel Bay / Bae Cinmel
Kirkheaton
Kirknewton
Knowl Wall
Leeds
Leicester
Leyland
Lincoln
Liverpool
London
Loughborough
Lower Stondon
Luton
Maidenhead
Maidstone
Manchester
Mansfield
Margate
Marlow Bottom
Marston Moretaine
Merthyr Tydfil / Merthyr Tudful
Middlesbrough
Milnrow
Milton Keynes
Motherwell
Neston
Newark-on-Trent
Newcastle upon Tyne
Newhall
Newquay
Newton Aycliffe
Newtonabbey
Newton-le-Willows
Normanton
Northampton
Nottingham
Nuneaton
Ottershaw
Oxford
Peterborough
Plymouth
Pontefract
Porthcawl
Portsmouth
Preston
Reading
Redcar
Redditch
Royston
Scunthorpe
Sheffield
Shelly Green
Shrewsbury
Slough
South Heighton
South Kirkby
South Normanton
South Ockendon
Southampton
Southend-on-Sea
Southport
St Albans
St Blazey
St Columb Road
Stafford
Stansted Airport
Stevenage
Stockton-on-Tees
Stoke-on-Trent
Stratford-upon-Avon
Sunderland
Sunninghill
Sutton in Ashfield
Swadlincote
Swindon
Swinton
Tamworth
Telford
Thornaby-on-Tees
Ullesthorpe
Wakefield
Wallingford
Walton
Warrington
Washington
Westhoughton
Weybridge
Wickford
Wigan
Winterbourne
Worcester
Worksop
Writtle
York

Leave a Comment
50 Responses
  1. Avatar Randy says:

    I wonder when they will install more than the one single 5G mast they installed in our town in 2019

    1. Avatar Name says:

      They won’t. That’s their strategy, run the network as cheap as possible and once they find out the particular cell/mast is overloaded they will stop selling mobile broadband in the area. This is why Three is cheap.

    2. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      I agree completely NAME, I don’t believe for a second that they even maintain their masts let alone upgrade them. The last thing three needs currently is more 5G out there, the already obvious lack of backhaul across the three network will just be stretched further still. More 5g sites will just hammer 4g further still.

    3. Avatar JP says:

      Buggerlugz – While I do agree back haul is one of the issues with Three, they need to continue rolling at 5G as a major issue with Three is also the lack of bandwidth available on there 4G allocated spectrum.

      Having just 2CA available across most the network where lots of the competitors mast are now putting out 3CA and as high as 6CA is a major issue.

      Where masts have been upgraded to 5G I’ve seen the L Band (1400mhz SDL) coming in and this is helping a lot, Three need to be spreading there users out across more spectrum.

    4. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      JP, I’d love 3 or 4 x CA, but strangly on my local mast 4g and 4g+ provide the same speeds (100mbps at 6am right down to 2Mbps after 6pm). So in my case it wouldn’t make any difference with Three!

  2. Avatar JP says:

    “”One of those includes a 100MHz block of contiguous spectrum in the 3.4-3.8GHz band (here), which is known to be the sweet spot for 5G speeds.””

    Whilst 100Mhz is available on there masts it was only available around 10% of the time while even right under the last it continuously dropped to 40Mhz.

    https://www.ispreview.co.uk/talk/threads/testing-three-5g-nsa-and-band-32.37064/

    I don’t have this issue with Vodafone’s 50Mhz of spectrum.

    1. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      I honestly struggle to believe if Three’s network has the backhaul to even use the 100mhz of spectrum they’ve bought.

    2. Avatar JP says:

      Well that will be the unknown until the 5G is implemented properly and my findings seem to point to the anchoring band (commonly band 3) having issues affects the negotiation of the NR bandwidth.

  3. Avatar Michael V says:

    Also 5G covering 4 villages. Ton Pentre to Treorchy in Rondda Cynnon Taf, South East Wales Valleys.
    That’s missing from the list.

    1. Avatar Connor says:

      List is also missing Wolverhampton where their 5G covers the city centre and a good bit more.

      Infact they deployed 5G near my flat at 40mhz and upgraded the backhaul and then boosted it to 100mhz yet we’re still not on the coverage list.

    2. Avatar Ryan says:

      That’s 2 villages. Was really surprised to see them roll out to that area.

  4. Avatar Jay powell says:

    Just waiting 5G to be switched on in my postcode tf4 2aa then kiss goodbye to virgin media broadband once my contract up

    1. Avatar Dave says:

      I wouldn’t get too excited yet, I often get 5G coming up on my phone when outside but the speed test isn’t usually any higher than 5G, latency usually a bit lower. Be a few years before the speeds are enough to use as home broadband but to be fair 4G started off relatively ‘slow’ at about 10mb, I’ve had 150+ on 4G depending on where I am.

    2. Avatar AD says:

      @Dave Well dave it’s a matter of location isn’t it and the carrier, and also equipment..so many factors. I’ve seen some usecases where people have completely replaced their fixed line solution

    3. Avatar Name says:

      Once 5G become available like 4G is it will be suffering from the same issues. Especially for cheap as possible running networks like Three.

    4. Avatar Anna says:

      Now Now Max – Sorry I mean “Jay” no need for that – I’d have VM over 5G any day – I can’t get EITHER so stop whinging!

    5. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      A bit like “WIFI calling” which pops up and down periodically on the three network then?

    6. Avatar Michael V says:

      My niece’s village now has 5G from Three. She’s replacing the ADSL broadband from TalkTalk. Had the 5G hub a week now & can run multiple things at once.

      When I lived in my previous house my 4G home broadband was great & never had any problems or buffering.

      We’re already seeing consumers choose mobile broadband over fixed line. Even more now we’re seeing more LTE-Advanced & 5G-NR.

  5. Avatar P says:

    A good effort from Three, if it was me I’d be suing the government for its mess it’s made over Huawei, but I do t expect that’s even remotely possible as they will just state it’s a security risk etc..

    1. Avatar Kyle says:

      And who do you think ends up paying?

    2. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      Effort and Three is never in the same sentence. Trust me on that one. “Smoke and mirrors” is more likely where they’re concerned.

  6. Avatar Carl O says:

    Its hardly available in towns and cities and should follow the suit of EE in naming places that are actually covered.

    Here in Chester there is a huge area of 5g coverage, over fields and very few houses, and seems such a waste on Threes part if they just adjusted the mast 90 degrees right it would cover a lot more of the city and surrounding areas.

    1. Avatar Name says:

      Typical Three. We have the same in our town. Single mast standing in the middle of nowhere. I can see it from my window and when I was with Three I never seen more than 1-2 network coverage bars on my mobile.

    2. Avatar JP says:

      There is reasons for cells being directed the way they are, I have have an anomaly with EE and Three in my house currently but that’s of minimal affect and due to a temporary mast standing too tall.

    3. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      That’s like the one in Mansfield. Its around 2 miles from the town centre on the edge of countryside with one small build newish housing estate within 1000ft of it, probably 500 homes within range.

    4. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      The other closest one is in Sutton in Ashfield by the A38 and fields, probably reaches 500 homes tops too. Is there a pattern emerging here? Is that the secret to providing “the UK’s fastest 5g”? Place them where hardly anyone can access it, so your mast never gets over-contended, rather than a busy town centre?

    5. Avatar Name says:

      Buggerlugz: It is a way cheaper to put a mast on the field in the middle of nowhere rather than in the town like EE, Vodafone or O2 do.

  7. Avatar Anna says:

    Can they not sort out the 4G first? I am having trouble with the neck snapping speeds of 1.7mbps down and 0.6mbps up! As my town is not listed ill be calling today to terminate my contract – end of story!

    1. Avatar JP says:

      As mentioned above fixing 4G comes with the 5G upgrades as it introduced faster backhaul and add’s additional 4G bands for use to spread the load from customers.

    2. Avatar Connor says:

      Mast that have 5G deployed also get upgraded to support band 1 and band 32 alongside their base band 3 which massively increases their capacity and stability not to mention the backhaul improvements usually needed for 5G increasing on the 4G side too.

      It’s not too uncommon to get 200mbps 4G on a Three 5G site.

    3. Avatar Michael V says:

      @Connor. Absolutely, on LTE I’m starting to see 100mbps – 150 down.
      LTE-Advanced I’m seeing around 200 down.
      Upload can see around 75mbps also.
      Three are really starting to show excellent performance.

      I’ve seen coverage gaps filled in also. It may sometimes only be 2 bars but at least we are seeing more VoLTE [4G voice]

    4. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      Fixing 4g whilst installing 5g is like opening the barn door after the horses have bolted in my view. Too little, too late. All that’ll happen is you’ll have 100 stalls for the ponies but 300 ponies wanting to share them.

      Not that they’ll learn from this and provide enough provision for the new 5g anyway (so when it comes to 6g they’ll save themselves millions………)

  8. Avatar Jay powell says:

    Sorry Anna but virgin media are greedy scumbags what 500 mpbs for 62 pounds a month you having a laugh no thanks I take 5G over greedy coropations like virgin and Elon musk anyway thanks .

    1. Avatar JP says:

      Come back when your educated enough to understand who products are for and what they are for.

  9. Avatar Imran Iqbal says:

    My practical experience last 12 years using 3 networks so soooo. In the last 12 years 2G 3G & 4G But no QOS (Quality of service) Maybe next year 6G no good speed…………..

  10. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    Is the “10Gbps backhaul link has now been added to more than 3,200 sites” for each one or shared amongst them all?

  11. Avatar Jay says:

    Jp Anna you must be a virgin media defender By clear saying I take virgin over 5G any day you haven’t got a clue your talking about jp or Anna so stfu and grown some balls and take your snide remarks behind a keyboard instead of face to face

    1. Avatar JP says:

      Shame all the drivvel got removed, anyhow…. life goes on!

  12. Avatar Policing says:

    Admin – multiple posts to be removed asap.

    1. Avatar JP says:

      Nah leave it, always good to have a good laugh at least once a day.

  13. Avatar Charles says:

    The coverage map from three shows 5G as not being available where I am. I am submitting this comment using said 5G signal from Three!

    1. Avatar JP says:

      I went out hunting today and quite surprised how far signals are being pushed from mast sites.

  14. Avatar Daniel P says:

    I find it very strange that two of the biggest cities in the East of England (Norwich and Cambridge) are missing from this list. Does anyone know the reason for this?

  15. Avatar Mark says:

    Three – Named after the number of hours you’ll be waiting to open a single webpage using their network!

  16. Avatar JP says:

    It took 3 days and 15 miles but I found a mast that works….. see more soon on the forum.

  17. Avatar Ig Og says:

    Three claimed coverage in my town back in early Nov 2019, went 3 weeks later, never to return. SMARTY 5G coming soon May 7th 2020, now Mar 2021, lie.

    1. Avatar Carl O says:

      Smarty does support 5g in a Three 5g coverage area as I tested this, it was a new sim so maybe yours needs replacing.

      They don’t advertise it fully no doubt because coverage is rubbish.

    2. Avatar Ig Og says:

      My SMARTY SIM was new a few weeks ago. Wonder if you’re not using Android, I had a similar conversation on another forum last November. All SMARTY say is soon.

  18. Avatar John Mason says:

    Sick of waiting. My town is not even on their list.

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