Three UK picks SSE wholesale network to boost 4G and prepare for 5G
09 July 2018 | Alan Burkitt-Gray
CK Hutchison’s Three UK has become the first known customer of the new wholesale backhaul service announced in June by SSE Enterprise Telecoms to compete with BT and Virgin Media.
Three UK has signed what SSE calls “an enhanced agreement … to connect Three’s network to hundreds of BT exchanges” in preparation for 5G roll-out, but also to improve 4G service.
Bryn Jones, CTO of Three UK, said: “By significantly increasing our access to fibre, we are putting our network on the best footing possible to take advantage of the benefits of 5G technology.”
SSE Enterprise Telecoms – owned by energy company SSE, which is also a partner in the final bidder for Ireland’s rural broadband project – said in June it will offer 100G on its connections to towers and BT exchanges.
Jones said: “Our customers use 3.5 times more data per month than the average UK consumer and this deal will help us maintain our leadership in providing a fantastic data service. Fibre is essential to the UK’s digital future and more needs to be done to improve its availability to ensure that the UK benefits from 5G at the earliest opportunity.”
Colin Sempill, managing director of SSE Enterprise Telecoms, said: “For 5G to live up to its potential, the right infrastructure must be in place. High capacity fibre connectivity is absolutely critical.”
SSE said in June that its network will connect 29 or 30 exchanges this year, extending to 170 over time, and perhaps ultimately 450-500 exchanges.
It said the new infrastructure will not only lay the groundwork for 5G, but will also improve the experience for Three customers using 4G. Fibre will allow the mobile operator to increase its network capacity 20 times, supporting the expected explosion in mobile data usage. Based on current Ofcom projections, Three UK customers are set to use around 90GB per month by 2025.
SSE said that fibre will improve network reliability, as well as enable new applications in the internet of things. Initial deployments of next generation mobile services are expected to begin in the second half of 2019 when the first 5G-capable handsets and home broadband devices are released by manufacturers.
Three UK has an agreement with Nokia to build what it calls the world’s first fully virtualised 5G-ready core network. SSE Enterprise Telecoms is using Infinera kit in its new fibre network.
The multi-million-pound deal between Three UK and SSE Enterprise Telecoms builds on a framework agreement announced in April. It was previously announced that SSE will provide a fibre resilience ring connecting all of Three’s data centres as a back-up to the main supplier for these sites.