Three Admits Rollout of Their 5G Network is “Slightly” Delayed

Mobile operator Three conceded that the rollout of their next generation mobile network is running behind schedule.

Three initially planned to offer 5G services in 25 UK cities and towns by the end of 2019.

But so far the network only exists in London and mostly delivers mobile broadband services.

The launch of the mobile side of Three’s 5G network is now widely expected to be delayed until early 2020.

The operator attributed the delay to difficulties obtaining planning permission for infrastructure and securing the rights to backhaul capacity and problems with migration to the new cloud core network.

A spokesperson said: “Some of these components [needed to deliver 5G] are more time consuming and complex than others, and, as a result, our 5G roll out is slightly behind our original plan.”

“Our absolute priority has always been to deliver the best 5G experience for our customers, and we’re confident our customers will enjoy a fast, seamless and uninterrupted experience as we roll out and align our 5G components.”

Three deflected from the 5G delay by talking up a £700 million investment in their 4G network, which is supposedly delivering speed improvements of up 150% for some customers. The 150% boost is the maximum, however. Customers in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and London are reportedly seeing 4G speed improvements on Three of between 30% and 40%.

Meanwhile, competitors EE, O2 and Vodafone have all launched their 5G services. Last week internet speed testing firm Ookla found that the UK’s live 5G networks are delivering speeds 450% faster than those offered by older networks, although improvements in upload speeds are less impressive.

Across the networks, average 5G download speeds were 176Mbps, compared to the 31.23 average on all mobile networks. 5G is offering average upload speeds of 19.24 Mbps, compared to the overall average of 11.25Mbps.

EE’s network has come out ahead, with average 5G download speeds of 205.02Mbps and 10% of customers enjoying speeds of more than 359.66Mbps. O2 and Vodafone’s 5G networks are delivering average download speeds of 159.48Mbps and 140.15Mbps, respectively.

Three, which wasn’t included in the speed tests, has claimed that its initial mobile broadband customers are enjoying average download speeds of 232Mbps and peak speeds of 1.1Gbps.

Three has long claimed that their dominance of the 5G spectrum—they own nearly double the amount of spectrum their rivals do—has put them in pole position for the next generation mobile network. We’ll have to wait until the new year to see if that’s true, but Three’s 5G is already slow out of starting gate.

Lauren Smith
Written by Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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