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Three UK Slowly Grows Outdoor 5G Mobile Coverage to 61%

Thursday, Aug 3rd, 2023 (11:20 am) - Score 5,760

Mobile operator Three UK has today reported their latest results to 30th June 2023, which among other things reveals that their 5G based mobile broadband network is now live across more than 4,400 sites (up from 4,250 at the end of 2022) in over 610 towns and cities – achieving 61% outdoor population coverage (up from just 60%).

Just to recap. Back in March 2023 we were informed that Three UK’s new 5G network had achieved 60% UK population coverage in December 2022 (here). The fact that today’s announcement puts this figure at only a single point higher appears to suggest that their rollout has significantly slowed, although part of the issue may be that the easiest dense urban locations have now been largely completed.

The potential merger with Vodafone might be another reason, since they won’t want to waste money on 5G overbuild if that is likely to get approval (here). But if that is one of the reasons, and we don’t yet know if it is (we’ve queried this with Three UK), then the operator might risk losing ground to competitors like EE.

Robert Finnegan, Chief Executive of Three UK, said:

“We have successfully grown the business in the first half of the financial year and I’m proud that we have added to the customer base and delivered an increase in margin. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all my colleagues for their hard work and ongoing commitment to the business.

While the ongoing rollout of 5G is a success, we have been clear that we are now at an inflection point. As strong connectivity continues to be critical to how we live and work, we’re planning for the future. Our EBITDA continues to be below our capital expenditure, which is unsustainable going forward.

In June we announced an agreement with Vodafone to merge our businesses. This marked a significant step in our efforts to create a business that will build the UK’s digital future and create a leading 5G network in Europe. Not only will it create a best-in-class network for coverage and reliability, it will also provide the necessary scale to invest, grow and compete, as well as drive economic growth, innovation and jobs across all parts of the UK.”

The results also claimed Three’s network now carries 29% of the UK’s mobile data traffic (Enders analysis), which is up from 28% at the end of 2022, and is also supporting average data usage per customer per month of 24.4GB (GigaBytes). The latter is up 17% year-on-year, although curiously it’s actually down from the 25.1GB figure they gave at the end of last year (usage typically rises, so this decline is very odd).

Other Key Highlights of the H1 2023 Results

➤ Revenue up 4% to £1.23bn (H1 2022: £1.18bn) as a result of an increase in the active customer base and net customer service revenue up 8% to £816m (2022: £754m)

➤ B2B customer base increased by 86% y-o-y, reaching the 500K customer milestone

➤ Active customer base up 7% or 661k y-o-y bringing the total to over 10.5m (H1 2022: 9.9m)

➤ MARTY base grew by 36% y-o-y

➤ 5G Home Broadband base increased by 174% y-o-y

➤ Opex has increased by 19%, largely as a result of inflationary pressures

➤ Reported Capex spend down 18% to £275m a result of Cellnex funding passive infrastructure of new sites. Capex spend predominantly focused on meeting regulatory requirements including SRN and High Risk Vendor swap outs (H1 2022: £334m)

➤ Retained Ookla recognition as the UK’s Fastest 5G Network (Q1-Q2 2023) for the fifth consecutive time, with the fastest median download speed of 265.75Mbps

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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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19 Responses
  1. Avatar photo M says:

    Beware of Three, they’re learning the same tactics as Virgin Media by renegotiating price rises on contract renewals. Do your research and find better options so you can take that information to them when renewing your contract. After an hour on the phone the price for my plan went from the £19 odd I was paying now to £22 to £20 to £18 to £16, the latter happened as I asked for a PAC code to go to a cheaper plan on a better network. Be careful folks, don’t let these companies scam you.

    1. Avatar photo Bert says:

      Stick to sim only contracts it’s cheaper and buy a handset outright.

    2. Avatar photo Michael V says:

      We know what you’re saying M. But sometimes it’s worth paying a few £ more. I’ve stuck with Three for many years. The other Operators don’t do it for me. [O2 leaves a lot to be desired around here] Three is the better experience. Bert is right. SIM only plans and buy your phones. However, this pixel 6 is the 1st in a long time since taking a 24month contract. Phone is definitely worth it.

    3. Avatar photo Cheesemp says:

      @Bert – that isn’t always true now. As always do some research and make the best purchase. I got a a54 for £190 on top of my contract. Phone was ~£300 elsewhere. I even have £50 cashback on the way making it an even better deal. Its interesting as this is the first time in about 8 years a contract was the cheaper option.

  2. Avatar photo Martin says:

    MARTY base grew by 36% y-o-y – I think this is SMARTY

    1. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      I am using smarty, been ok for me most of the time and it is cheap, so I can see why more people are using it

  3. Avatar photo David says:

    Three need to grow the Indoor 5G signal as well. In my area Three 5G is only available outside.

    1. Avatar photo Three 5G says:

      The only way to get 5G is try on your loft! My house git no 5G everywhere indoor then go the loft as 5G has picked up and got speed of this below from the loft


    2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      The few people I know that have 5G on their phones that live around here, say that 5G is hit-and-miss on all the networks around here. you only have to walk a couple of feet, and you are back to 4G or worse as the phone gets confused.
      one of the reasons why I am in no rush to get a 5G phone and to be honest if I was buying a new now I would avoid getting a 5G phone.

    3. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      Ad47uk: I suspect most phones are like my Samsung S22, and allow users to select the permitted connections. If the higher battery use of 5G doesn’t justify itself in any benefits, don’t allow it to connect on 5G.

    4. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      @Andrew G, I have been told, read or something or other that some contract phones will not allow 5G to be turned off, or it turns itself back on. I have sim only contracts and buy my own phone, I don’t know if that can be done with them, but at the end of the day it is my phone, so should be able to use what ever G is available 🙂
      I will keep with my phone until it goes belly up and then see if I can get another one without 5G. My phone could last for another 3 years or more.

  4. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    Perhaps 3 might want to start looking at their miserable coverage of railways? Coverage on the routes around Birmingham and at the stations is pathetic. I doubt that other areas do much better, last time I was passing through Waterloo there was no 3 signal at all.

    1. Avatar photo Sam P says:

      Strangely enough my daughter was able to stream her favourite shows the entire train ride while everyone else in our group has no signal. This is on Three.

  5. Avatar photo Sam P says:

    A know of at least a dozen three 5G cell towers that have been standing for at least a year without being switched on.

  6. Avatar photo POW says:

    Im still waiting for Three pole to be built near me. According to council data they received planning approval well over a year ago & no news since. Ive been checking one.network and bidb regularly. When they applied it was for a phase 8 monopole, so Im wondering now that theyre now on phase 9 monopoles will they have to re-apply for planning to build the latest type of pole. The phase 9 pole would definitely be better suited to these locations.

    1. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

      I’d entertain a three 5g pole if one was put up near me, but know deep down that they’d definitely not provision anywhere near enough back-haul to make it even a viable offering! Considering how over-subscribed its 4G is where I live the “pretend 5g” wouldn’t work very well anyway, So it’d be a pointless exercise even if they did.

    2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      3 have been refused permission for at least 3 masts around here, too high by all accounts. I don’t know what they don’t use the masts we already have, some of them are pretty high anyway as they on hills. If they really need to build more masts, then maybe 5G is not such a good thing.

  7. Avatar photo Daz says:

    Problem wth 3 is where they are putting 5G masts where the bigger networks are looking for areas to build a mast away from properties,and at this time I think Three need to concentrate on there crap 4G signal as its really crap here even though coverage maps say its excellent that is a total lie someone mentioned O2 well they have not built a mast in ages or took out a 4G antenna or a 5G one the data speeds are pathetic everywhere unless you can find an O2 mast and stand next to one which you shouldn’t do for your own health, Vodafone has best signal and data speeds but are like EE very expensive and I would steer clear of Vodafone contracts if the slightest thing goes wrong your in for a rough ride with customer services that sound more like something from Scammer payback on YouTube

  8. Avatar photo james smith says:

    Here in CV37 south warwickshire where I live the 5g has improved with the yearly system upgrade, even with the router sat in front of a jarred upstairs window.
    The only let down is that the analogue phone socket is not supported

Comments are closed

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