Three isn't the first major UK provider to offer a 5G service. It's won't even be the second. However, it plans to be the best.
While EE already has its 5G offering available in some locations, and Vodafone's will launch on 3 July, Three's first consumer plans won't be available until August. And, they'll initially be dedicated to home broadband.
But, as it explained to Pocket-lint during a London briefing on Monday, that's because it doesn't care about being first, it cares about offering a better service. And, to build the infrastructure to do that takes a little longer.
The company genuinely believes this is where it can catch up and even surpass its rivals in providing the best next-generation mobile network in the country. As the youngest of the majors, it has always lagged a little behind EE, Vodafone and O2 in mobile muscle, but it told us that 5G is a game changer.
Three is investing £2 billion in its plan to build the fastest 5G network in the UK. This includes new data centres built closer to points where mobile internet speeds are traditionally lowest, a new smart network of M-MIMO masts running at a configuration that greatly increases capacity over rival tech, a cloud core network from Nokia that is scalable over the coming years, and the acquisition of spectrum, both from Ofcom in the auctions and as part of a buyout of UK Broadband.
The latter is, perhaps, the most important in the short term as the buyout and spectrum allocation resulted in Three owning, not only the 140Mhz block but, significantly, a block of 100MHz contiguous spectrum. This is the holy grail of 5G spectrum as it gives the provider the potential of offering the most stable, fastest 5G service around.
Its rivals own spectrum in the 40MHz and 50MHz blocks which are, purportedly, not as capable when running at optimum effectiveness.
Three itself outlined this is a chart, where it proposed that the speeds offered by its biggest British rivals max out at between 300Mps and 400Mbps. But, thanks to the contiguous 100MHz spectrum block, Three claims its is capable of reaching up to around 900Mbps.
Naturally, this is Three's own chart and we have no doubt that EE, O2 and Vodafone will respond. Plus, we need to test this in the real world after launch, but colour us intrigued.
Three's other boast is that its M-MIMO (Massive Multiple Input Multiple Output) masts, deployed for 5G, are 64T64R in comparison to 8T8R used by rivals. Sprint uses the same masts in the US, which are said to provide greater stability and signal strength (around 3x) because, as the tech suggests, they use more transmit and receive elements in the antenna (64 of each, over 8 in the 8T8R configuration).
So, that tech combined with its contiguous 100MHz spectrum certainly suggests that, while it's not first out of the gate, Three has the potential of offering a faster service with stronger stability than the company has even been known for before.
We can't wait to test the service for ourselves to see if real world use backs up Three's claims. If that turns out to be the case, maybe it really is time for the underdog to shine.
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