Three was the last provider to launch a 4G network but it already covers almost half (48%) of the UK and has announced that 3.1 million of its UK customers are using 4G.
Three has a unique 4G model compared with the other 4G network providers, because all customers that live in an area with 4G can make use of the faster service without having to pay extra, assuming they have a 4G ready device. This means that the uptake of 4G among Three customers is relatively high compared with other networks.
Three’s plans to expand 4G
It seems that Three has a number of strategies underway to increase its 4G coverage across the country and meet its target of 98% coverage by the end of 2015. Adding low frequency spectrum is one of these strategies and its 800MHz spectrum is being introduced around new cell sites to increase coverage. Low frequencies are better suited to rural coverage as they can travel over longer distances than high frequency services and can penetrate buildings.
In addition it is likely that Three will but another network that already has greater coverage. There has been some speculation that Three will buy O2, but the expectation is now that O2 will be bought back by BT. The 4G network most likely to be bought by Three’s parent company Hutchison Whampoa is EE as Three and EE already share some 4G services, but this has not yet been confirmed and EE is also rumoured to be in talks with BT.
According to Dave Dyson, CEO of Three, “The rollout of new capacity is progressing well and, most importantly for me, customer satisfaction is higher than ever. With an advanced 3G network already in place all our customers are able to benefit from a reliable and high performing network. The addition of low frequency spectrum is just one part of our plans to expand Three’s coverage and bring our network to more people in more places in 2015.”
Three most satisfying 4G network
A recent Ofcom report ranked the UK’s four main networks and discovered that, although Three had the slowest download speeds, it ranked highest overall and offered users the most satisfying experience.
Three had the fastest web browsing speed over 4G at 0.62 seconds, compared with 0.76 seconds for EE. The network also ranked highest for latency, which is a good indication of how services like iPlayer and Skype will work on mobile devices. The lower the latency the better, and Three’s average latency was 47.6 milliseconds, compared with 64.3 milliseconds on EE. A latency of 100 or more will make streaming video highly problematic.
However, Three’s 4G footprint is much smaller than EE’s, with EE covering more than 70% of the population. EE also has faster download speeds, 18Mbps on average, compared with Three’s 10.7 Mbps. So will we see Three’s satisfaction levels and EE’s network coverage combining next year in order to reach Ofcom’s target of 98% 4G coverage by the end of 2017?