Three is getting its network ready for a 4G rollout but may have to wait until September 2013 to get the right spectrum from Everything Everywhere
Three is getting its network ready for a UK 4G rollout, as today it announced a deal with Samsung, which will see the latter provide networking gear – but Three’s 4G services might not arrive till next September.
Samsung will provide kit for Three’s LTE Radio Access Network (RAN) and 3G/LTE core infrastructure, and it will be the first time the South Korean firm has built a commercial mobile network in Europe.
Three is hoping to roll 4G out to customers as soon as it receives spectrum it has been promised by Everything Everywhere – the operator running the joint brands of Orange and T-Mobile.
Much to the chagrin of O2 and Vodafone, on Tuesday, Ofcom gave the go-ahead for Everything Everywhere to use its 1800MHz spectrum for 4G usage, effectively allowing the company to roll out services before the end of the year.
As the company was compelled to sell some of its 1800MHz spectrum under the terms of the Orange and T-Mobile merger, as determined by the European Commission, on the same day it emerged Everything Everywhere was to sell two 15MHz channels of its 1800MHz spectrum to Three.
To 4G or not to 4G?
Yet it may take until September next year for Three to offer 4G services, as Everything Everywhere does not have to transfer the first chunk of spectrum it has sold until then. Sources close to the deal told TechWeekEurope that the regulatory approval, the technical issues associated with the handover and EE’s potential unwillingness to let go of the spectrum early could add up to a delay of at least a year.
The deal with Samsung will at least mean Three is ready for any rollout from the start of next year, as a spokesperson for the operator told TechWeekEurope that the backhaul was ready thanks to deals with network providers like BT. “This is a big deal… We will be ready as and when we get the spectrum,” the spokesperson said.
The Samsung-provided infrastructure will also give a boost for those on Three’s 3G network too. Samsung will now work on deploying LTE base stations, including all associated systems and network support services across Three’s network. Three and Samsung will start trialling the updated network this year and move to full deployment and commercialisation in early 2013.
“Three’s customers will start benefitting from this investment in our core network early next year and those benefits will grow further as we deploy new spectrum,” said Dave Dyson, CEO of Three UK.
“Samsung has been active in developing and commercializing data-specialized mobile solutions since the early 2000s, and has accrued significant experience in LTE projects around the globe,” added Youngky Kim, executive vice president and general manager for the telecommunication systems business at Samsung Electronics.
“We are bringing the full weight of this experience to our deployment with Three UK, and trust this will mark the start of many successful relationships with leading mobile operators based in Europe.”
Networking companies are rushing to provide the backbone of 4G services in the UK, ahead of the Ofcom-run 4G auction due to take place at the end of this year. Everything Everywhere already has a long-term deal with Huawei, which in 2011 was brought in to provide for the operator’s network over a four-year period.
Vodafone and O2 have just under two weeks to lodge complaints about Ofcom’s decision to grant Everything Everywhere approval for 1800MHz 4G services.
“Ofcom has given us 14 days to examine its decision so we will look into the work that it has carried out. We are exploring all options,” Vodafone said on Tuesday.
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