Three to invest £2bn in roll-out of 5G infrastructure across UK

Three UK CEO claims 5G will allow users to ditch fixed line broadband. Promising speeds better than users are used to at home today, mobile operator Three is undertaking a GBP2bn investment in 5G infrastructure across the UK. The company said it intends to be first out of the blocks with 5G services by half way through 2019.

In the UK has acquired 5G spectrum and signed agreements for the rollout of new cell site technology to prepare major urban areas for the rollout of 5G devices as well as to enhance the existing 4G service. Crucial to this will be a high-capacity dark fibre network that connects with 20 data centres. Three has also deployed a 5G-ready, fully-integrated native core network in its data centres with initial capacity of 1.2Tbps.

David Dyson, Three UK’s chief executive said that the speeds that users will enjoy via 5G or fifth generation mobile could outpace the connections they currently get on their fixed line copper or fibre services. “Maybe not for the whole country, but certainly a significant majority of the country, I strongly believe 5G can offer a good enough home broadband experience for people to effectively ditch their copper [or fibre] connection,” Dyson was quoted by the BBC. “The challenge in terms of why we can’t do that today is that the mobile networks don’t have the capacity with 3G or 4G.

5G changes all of that.” In Ireland, Three was one of five firms identified as the winners of the first slices of 3.6GHz spectrum – the band critical for certain 5G services – after bidding EUR78m between them. Three, registered as Three Ireland Hutchison Ltd, secured 100MHz nationally.

In its recent financial results Three reported that it now carries two-thirds of Ireland’s total mobile data. A EUR62m capex for the first half of 2018 in Ireland is in keeping with a commitment made earlier this year by Three Ireland CEO Robert Finnegan to invest EUR100m a year on a 5G roll-out plan.

Are 5G security warnings genuine or protectionism?

Despite the hope (or hype) around 5G, the UK government has written to several telecoms companies warning them that their 5G supply chain may be affected by a review of the UK’s telecoms infrastructure that was launched in July. There are fears that Chinese companies like Huawei could be barred from the rollout of 5G in the UK.

According to the Financial Times, the letter was targeted at Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei, which has already had to struggle with efforts to ban it by Australia and the US. Huawei is leading the charge by Chinese telecoms equipment and smartphone makers at such a velocity that it is outpacing traditional European equipment makers like Nokia or Ericsson or US equipment makers like Cisco. As such, efforts to censure or ban Huawei and other players like ZTE on security and alleged spying grounds smack more of protectionism than anything else.

The letter said the review aimed to ensure that Britain’s “critical national infrastructure remains resilient and secure.”

The letter did not name Huawei but warned “the outcome of the review may led to changes in the current rules.”

If such a ban was to be imposed it could seriously undermine if not delay 5G deployment in the UK until 2020.

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