Three prepares for 4G Spectrum Refarm by Halting Sales of 3G-Only Phones
Mobile network provider Three has announced that it’s to stop selling phones only capable of using 3G services, clearing the runway for some more 4G spectrum refarming. The network isn’t shutting down 3G services anytime soon, mind, so if you’ve got a non-4G device, you need not worry for the time being. It’s just that from now on, it’ll only be selling devices that can make use of the latest services like 4G SuperVoice – Three’s fancy marketing term for VoLTE (Voice over LTE) – not to mention faster download and upload speeds.
More importantly, this means that in the future, Three will be freer to refarm more of the 2100MHz spectrum for 4G use, something which it’s tentatively started doing. Three owns two 14.6MHz slices of the 2100MHz band, which it uses for 3G services, as well as 5MHz slices of the 800MHz and 2600MHz bands, which are used for 4G. In 2013, Ofcom relaxed rules meaning that networks could refarm 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz spectrum if they wished.
Read next: UK 5G Auction: O2 Scores All 2.3GHz Licences, EE, Vodafone and Three Bet on the Future
In simple terms, opening up more of the 2100MHz band for 4G means that things like VoLTE – i.e. much clearer voice calls which connect much more quickly than a standard voice call – will eventually be available in more places.
If you’re using 3G-only phones or older mobile broadband dongles, you need not worry just yet – but make no mistake, you’re going to have to upgrade eventually. “Our research has shown that the customers that are using all the benefits of 4G are happier and enjoying all the benefits of being able to stream, share and snap to their heart’s content,” says Dave Dyson, Three UK’s CEO. “We recognise that this is a significant milestone for us as a business and for the market, just as the introduction of 3G was at the turn of the century and we are proud to be driving the industry forwards once more.”
Last September, EE announced that it had rearranged its 1800MHz band holdings, following in the wake of O2, which announced similar plans back in 2015. Three appears to have only refarmed a tentative 10MHz of the 2100MHz band so far, and even this is localised to an area around east London’s Tech City hub – according to data collected by infrastructure analyst Peter Clarke. Moving away from 3G is something of a milestone for Three, which launched as the UK’s first 3G-only network on the 3rd of March, 2003.
It’s very much nailed its Three-ness to the mast over the years, meaning, much like the Carphone Warehouse, its brand will become increasingly anachronistic as the years go by.
- ^ UK 5G Auction: O2 Scores All 2.3GHz Licences, EE, Vodafone and Three Bet on the Future (uk.pcmag.com)
- ^ much clearer voice calls which connect much more quickly than a standard voice call (uk.pcmag.com)
- ^ announced that it had rearranged its 1800MHz band holdings (uk.pcmag.com)
- ^ according to data (tools.pedroc.co.uk)