Three: 800MHz, VoLTE And Small Cells Will Make Us UK’s Most Reliable Nework

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Three says reliability not speed is important as it unveils 2015 network roadmap

Three will deploy 800MHz spectrum, Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and small cells in a bid to make its mobile network the most reliable in the UK.

The company says the focus on reliability is a direct response to customer demands and parts of its mission to improve world of mouth recommendations and attract new customers.

“Our underlying objective is to be the most reliable network in the UK,” explained Phil Sheppard, director of network strategy at Three, who said reliability was more important to subscribers than speed. “That has been the focus for some time.

“[Reliability] means you can talk and text anywhere, calls don’t drop, messages delivered properly, always able to use data, downloads are quick and when you’re viewing video there’s no buffering or stalling,”

800MHz spectrum rollout

Dave Dyson Three CEOThree currently has 3.4 million of its eight million subscribers using its 4G network and says its LTE service is now available to 55 percent of the UK population.

It claims that despite more users on the network, speeds are stable at 18Mbps and says increasing the number of masts from 14,200 to 17,000 by 2017 and ensuring 100 percent of its network is connected by high speed backhaul links will maintain performance.

Sheppard says that although there will be some “less sexy” network improvements, such as the rollout of Software Defined Networking (SDN), Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) and Self-Organising Network (SON) technology were on the horizon, users would notice a definite improvement from the roll out of 800MHz – especially indoors.

Three’s VoLTE service will use these frequencies too to offer better quality calls.

“We know some of our customers have coverage problems at home,” he said. “We’ve not had low frequency spectrum before. After that you’ll see a positive coverage uplift.

“We also have further spectrum to deploy in Q4 this year. We have spectrum from EE, and that will improve performance even further.”

Wi-Fi tools

Three also offers femtocell products to boost indoor coverage, but this is seen as a more expensive option than deploying 800MHz. Three inTouch, an application which lets customers use their voice and text allowances over a Wi-Fi connection, is seen a cost-effective option for people in areas of poor coverage, and has so far attracted 700,000 users since launch.

Three also wants to make it available abroad in a bid to make roaming cheaper, especially since there is “no guarantee” that EU pledges on abolishing roaming charges within member states will be kept under the new administration.

“Roaming is something that needs to be corrected in the mobile industry. Paying £6,000 for a gigabyte abroad is just wrong,” declared Three CEO Dave Dyson. “My ambition is to make good value global roaming a reality.”

Three O2 ‘merger’

Three inTouchHowever Dyson does not believe that using Wi-Fi-based technology to boost network coverage is an admission of failure in cellular infrastructure, it’s just a reflection that there is a “lot of Wi-Fi in the UK.”

He admits that people are using Wi-Fi more at home, but mobile is not turning into an “outdoor only” network as Wi-Fi is still unreliable unless you are static. He also pointed out that BT has spent a long time working on a hybrid mobile network using its Wi-Fi infrastructure and a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) agreement with EE, yet is now buying the operator itself.

Dyson would not be drawn on the possibility of another mobile takeover, specifically parent company’s Hutchison Whampoa’s proposed purchase of O2, but did say the firm was in discussions about deploying small cells in the UK to boost capacity in crowded urban areas.

“I can’t say who we’re talking to at the moment, but we are working on a small cell proposition,” he confirmed.

One deal that has been completed is an MVNO partnership with Dixons Carphone which hopes the deal with strengthen its ambitions in the Internet of Things (IoT).

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