UK MNO Three has been busy rolling out its 5G network, which as of now reaches 154 towns and cities.

As part of that effort, the company announced this week that it has begun switching on the first of its 5G sites that use equipment supplied by Ericsson. The sites in question are located in Glasgow, Manchester and Reading.

Three had planned to rely extensively on Huawei for its 5G network, but the government’s opposition to the Chinese vendor – emphasised this week with the announcement that telcos stop installing new Huawei kit from September 2021 – forced a rethink.

“We’re pleased to have our first Ericsson sites live on our network,” said Susan Buttsworth, Three UK’s chief operating officer, in a statement.

As well as supplying products for Three’s 5G rollout, the Swedish vendor is also helping the operator overhaul its networks and IT systems, as part of a £2 billion transformation project. So far, this project has seen the launch of 20 new data centres; improvements to Three’s fibre backhaul infrastructure; and the launch of VoLTE across its 4G footprint.

“Ericsson is a key partner in the transformation of our network,” Buttsworth noted. “Our customers use 3.5 times more data than the industry average so the investments that we are making are vital to enhancing current performance of our 4G network, future-proofing it and delivering on our promise of providing better connectivity, every day for every customer.”

Three’s 5G network launched in August 2019. It said at the time that its 100 MHz of spectrum would enable it to offer the fastest connection in the country.

Fast-forward to today, and it seems Three’s confidence was not misplaced. According to test results compiled by Ookla, Three UK’s 5G network had a median connection speed of 201.1 Mbps, faster than any of its rivals.

While that is certainly an achievement worth sharing, it isn’t exactly the multi-gigabit dream that was being sold by the industry during the early days of 5G’s development. Presumably that will change once network densification gets underway; nonetheless, operators and their suppliers need to make sure that the reality of 5G does not fall short of the vision they spent so long hyping.



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