British network Three joins 5G mobile club

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past an advertisement promoting the 5G data network at a mobile phone store in London, Britain, January 28, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - British network Three is rolling out 5G mobile to major cities including London, Glasgow and Birmingham from the end of the month, joining its larger rivals in offering next-generation services on new 5G-enabled handsets.

Three, owned by Hong Kong’s Hutchison, launched a 5G home broadband product in central London last year, but Chief Executive Dave Dyson said he wanted all elements of the network, including its cutting edge “cloud core”, fully functioning before moving onto mobile.

He said Three’s entry into the market coincided with the launch of a bigger range of compatible handsets, including the new Samsung Galaxy S20 range unveiled on Tuesday, which would spark wider interest in ultrafast services.

Apple is set to launch its first 5G iPhones later this year, industry analysts have predicted. “We are prepped and ready for that critical inflection point,” Dyson said.

The company, unlike rivals like BT’s EE, said it would give customers access to 5G with no speed caps and at no extra cost on all contract, SIM-only and pay-as-you-go mobile plans.

The service will initially be available in 25 cities and towns, building to 80% coverage by the end of 2021, it has said.

Three’s spectrum holdings - the airwaves mobile operators license for their services - historically lagged rivals, but when it comes to 5G the position is reversed.

Three said it currently holds more 5G spectrum than the rest of the industry combined and its was the only UK operator with the 100MHz of 5G spectrum required to meet the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) standard for a 5G network.

Three has partnered with leading London fashion design college Central Saint Martins to create what it said would be a fully immersive 5G catwalk experience later on Friday as part of London Fashion Week.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Alexandra Hudson