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Three UK Sees up to 70% Boost in Mobile Network Energy Efficiency

Wednesday, Jun 19th, 2024 (9:08 am) - Score 3,720

Mobile operator Three UK has announced that they’ve been able to work with strategic supplier Ericsson to improve the energy efficiency of their national 4G and 5G (mobile broadband) network by up to 70% “at selected sites“. This is largely thanks to the deployment of next-generation AI-powered hardware and software solutions.

The mobile operator has spent much of the last 18 months delivering a network modernisation programme, which has included various changes. For example, at the end of 2023 Three UK became one of the first major operators in the UK to deploy Ericsson’s latest dual-band Radio 4490, which consumes less power and is 25% lighter than previous models (i.e. easier to install on some rooftop sites).

The operator has also upgraded some of their existing software, which introduced features that have enabled some of their kit to consume less power per radio during low traffic hours (i.e. advanced machine learning, passive cooling and power-saving features). In simple terms, this switches off radio components when not active, while having the capability to switch them on again in microseconds for the next service request.

Iain Milligan, Chief Network Officer of Three UK, said:

“Three UK’s collaboration with Ericsson marks a milestone in our commitment to sustainability. We’ve achieved excellent improvements in energy efficiency while expanding network capabilities for our customers. We plan to take these learnings on board for future projects, ensuring that we continue to improve the environmental impact of our network.”

As well as helping to save money on electricity, this also means that Three UK’s network will produce lower CO2 emissions and all without comprising on their network performance. But it should be said that other network operators have been deploying the same or similar solutions, and the removal of older 3G services will also be contributing to greater energy efficiency and performance.

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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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23 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Three says:

    Sounds like good news. Well done Three for innovating. However as much as it sounds like efficiency improvements, how exactly does this mean performan Improvement? If anything it’s massive efficiency increase at a cost of marginal performance decrease…

    1. Avatar photo Gigs says:

      Wow, a comment by a Three fanboy telling us how great Three is.

      Meanwhile, in the largest UK city, London, Three can only provide 0.1Mbps in Leicester Square.

      They love to pop up poles in random places with about four people and get them to post speed tests but where people actually live, Three is slow and terrible indoors.

      Every other network is either slow, or works indoors. Three is slow AND doesn’t work indoors.

      Joke of a network.

    2. Avatar photo Anon says:

      Three is bad in central London, but we’re not all in central London, are we? Even in London, the experience isn’t bad everywhere within the M25. In the south, I’ve found them to be better than Vodafone because of their higher cell density. How is this possible if Vodafone is so good in Trafalgar Square?

      These comments about how bad or good a network is are not really useful. The fact we always have someone complaining about the network under their articles should tell you that they all have issues… Yet you two want to make blanket statements about them.

      Three probably have more bad areas than other networks, but they’re not useless everywhere.

    3. Avatar photo HoDor says:

      They’re not super fast here, but I have no issues with them indoors. They have B28 and B32 in this area.

      Don’t assume your experience is everyone’s experience, Gigs.

    4. Avatar photo Jack says:

      I was in Leicester Square at BK and was getting 100mbps at around 4pm last year…
      It was during the Indiana Jones premier as well. Lots of people around.

      Also got over 200mbps while on the Elizabeth line under T4 between stations.

      I’m on Three.

      People always be hating on Three on these comments.
      Starting to think they are either paid shills or have shit phones.

    5. Avatar photo Anon says:

      You won’t get 100Mbps in Leicester Square now, Jack. Could be some local issue, I don’t know, but during the day it’s hard to get more than 2Mbps there. Tested with a S23 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro.

  2. Avatar photo Lucian says:

    I’ll tell you what, since a few months my 5G snr has dropped from +25 to -1, I can hardly pick up 5G now on my roof with line of sight to the mast 1-2 miles away, whereas before it was excellent.

    Let’s say I’m not enthused with their “improvements”.

  3. Avatar photo zzing123 says:

    Can we begin to talk about backhaul connectivity please? Quite often I will have a great signal on my phone and nothing loads, so it’s not just signal but bandwidth contention from the cell to internet.

  4. Avatar photo Jax says:

    Tough luck Gigs. 3’s home broadband is great where I live in North Somerset & recent improvements have made it even better. Smarty is also terrific on my phone.

  5. Avatar photo Gareth says:

    My “5G Hone Broadband” is getting slower and slower. Started off in 2022 with 400 to 500Mbps and it’s gradually worked it’s way down to around 100Mbps!

    1. Avatar photo Ben says:

      What speed did Three commit to provide when you ordered it?

    2. Avatar photo HoDor says:

      If you haven’t yet, try selecting other bands (assuming the router lets you do that). A friend gets the best speeds using band B28 + B32 + n78. Speeds are lower if he uses B3.

      Not sure if it will help, but give it a try.

    3. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

      I agree Gareth. I’ve seen 250Mbps over 4G with Three at 02:00am-4:00am and yet the same mast only manages 1Mbps 18:00-01:00. Left them, gave them a second go 2 years later, and it was exactly the same situation so left within the cooling off period.

  6. Avatar photo Martyn says:

    I don’t believe a word 3uk has to say about anything, there’s even time for them to launch a political campaign being already fully qualified in the art of spin.

    1. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

      I agree totally with you Martyn, 3 is indeed a master of spin. I do wonder if a “70% Boost in Mobile Network Energy Efficiency” means they’re actually improving back-haul to their masts so they can actually provide a half decent service at peak times instead of massively oversubscribed masts incapable of delivering anything.

  7. Avatar photo Blake says:

    For those that knock Three its all rather area dependant, as with all networks. In Brighton and Hove area I get consistent 200-500Mbps in most locations. My O2 sim I’m lucky to get 1Mbps even on 5G. But as I say it all depends where you live. Just get what works for you.

    1. Avatar photo Anon says:

      It’s like that for all networks.

  8. Avatar photo Anon says:

    It would be nice if Three stopped sleeping bands at fixed times without looking at the load first. In some areas at least, there’s little to no “AI” involved. B32 and n78 go down at mid night and come up at 8 or something like that.

    EE, at least in cities, also turns off bands, but they come online after 30 seconds or so load is added. Still saves power, but doesn’t affect customers that much.

  9. Avatar photo Steve says:

    My Three 4G broadband usually gives me speeds between 70-80Mbps in a suburban area. It’s on their stock MF286D device that I flashed with Nordic firmware. I pay about £12 per month for unlimited data. Admittedly it’s not as rock solid as Virgin but I left them after it was just price hike after price hike. The router needs occasional reboots (although the Nordic firmware has a built in cronjob to do this if required). I can’t really knock it although I respect others mileage may vary.

  10. Avatar photo Nick Roberts says:

    NW London suburb . . . Three is OK here on 3G and 4G . . .tonight, indoors 4.06mbps down, 3.07mbps up and ping 41 (Its usually iro of 7mbps down). Happily runs YT videos on the phone or when tethered to desktop . . no buffering delays.

    Its 5G with Three that’s the problem . . . bottom of Hill . . not spot . . only get a signal if your outside doing Benji Franklin impressions

  11. Avatar photo William Gates says:

    3 UK are certainly saving power in my area – At 1AM the 5G signal is turned off, leaving me on 4G. Oddly the 4G is less than 5mb down & 30+mb up.
    At 6AM the 5G returns.

  12. Avatar photo JP says:

    Sleeping bands at night on a network that provides broadband services is stupidity….

    Backhaul needs to be managed better, I’m getting 30mbps from 5G at moment and have two 5G bands connected along with 4 4G bands!!

  13. Avatar photo Sonic says:

    Where I live, Three has found enormous energy efficiencies by not having any useful coverage. Such a smart move. Well done, Three.

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