Three 4G Rollout Begins In Four UK Cities

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 4G to be available in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Reading before reaching 50 towns and cities next year

Three has started rolling out 4G to customer in four cities in the UK – Birmingham, London, Manchester and Reading – and plans to reach 50 by the end of 2014.

The operator says a few thousand of its customers can now receive LTE following a successful employee trial in November and others will be notified when 4G is available in their area.

Customers will not have to change their SIM card, and will not be charged an additional premium for the service, with Three CEO Dave Dyson telling journalists in London this morning that 4G is an opportunity to strengthen our brand around data.”

Three 4G rollout

Dave Dyson Three CEODyson says there should be “no immediate impact” to the customer experience and that the advent of LTE is about maintaining its network rather than improving it, claiming that demand for 4G among its users was lower than its rivals because of its excellent 3G service.

“We’ve been pushing 3G to the limits,” says Dyson, who says the operator didn’t want to be distracted from its existing network, which it claims to be the fastest in the country thanks to the rollout of DC-HSPDA+.

“I’d argue the transition from 2G to 3G was a bigger shift than 3G to 4G.”

However he concedes that the Three network is nearing capacity in some parts of the country, which is why the additional bandwidth afforded by 4G is so appealing and why it will be delivered in the biggest cities first, before expanding nationwide to be there when customers need it.

Late Starter

Three is the last major UK operator to launch 4G, but Dyson is convinced this will not be a disadvantage.

Three claims there has been no evidence to suggest that its business has been harmed by being the last to offer 4G and says that EE’s figures have been disappointing, suggesting the majority of its users are upgrades rather than new customers, while it has noted no “explosion” in O2 and Vodafone 4G users since the services launched in August.

EE 4G currently has 1.2 million customers having launched in November last year, but Three says that by the end of the first quarter of 2014, it will have “roughly” 1.5 million users with 4G-ready devices capable of accessing LTE.

Unlike its rivals, Three will not be offering any inclusive content such as sports, movies or games. Dyson says it has tried such a strategy in the past, but it wasn’t successful, and would instead focus on the value of its packages.

4G towns

The confirmed towns and cities that will receive Three 4G from next year are as follows: Aberdeen, Blackpool, Bolton, Bournemouth, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Coventry, Derby, Dundee, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Gloucester, Huddersfield, Hull, Ipswich, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Luton, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Northampton, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Preston, Sheffield, Slough, Southampton, Southend, Stoke, Stockport, Swindon, Watford and York.

When TechWeekEurope asked Dyson whether Three was interested in presenting 4G as a solution to rural areas that cannot receive superfast broadband through a fixed connection, he replied that the operator was involved with the government’s £150 million Mobile Infrastrucutre Project and was “very supportive in rolling that out.”

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