Despite the fashion for all-things 5G, Hutchinson’s UK network Three has upgraded 2,700 urban sites to support faster 4G data.
At its core Three UK has introduced what’s called carrier aggregation. It is a feature of LTE-A, where A means Advanced, and it allows the component carriers of the signal at different frequencies to be combined to increase bit rate. LTA stands for Long Term Evolution.
This approach looks to make the most of the patchwork of frequencies and spectrum bands where Three said half of the devices on its network support this carrier aggregation technology.
This follows Vodafone’s introduction of LTE-A carrier aggregation back in 2014, while EE did the same two years later. Both now qualify for the 4G+ badge. Ofcom has made improving 4G coverage a condition for those wanting to bid for 5G.
And just last month Three and O2 agreed to build out fibre through London’s sewers to an effort to speed-up the deployment of further 4G and 5G data networks. These deals followed a landmark agreement between Thames Water and telco SSE to put fibre optic cables in the capital’s sewers, which were first built in 1848 after the city was hit by a cholera epidemic.
When completed they boast there will be 100 connectivity points emerging from the sewers. This is timely after London finished bottom of 16 metropolitan areas for network reliability, speed and data performance. According to their first quarter report for 2018 Belfast came top but London, with the largest population came a resounding last.
Operator performance in London was generally quite good, but the market’s rankings were pulled down by comparatively slow speeds from O2 and relatively high rates of blocked and dropped calls by both O2 and Vodafone.
As the capital city and business epicentre of the UK, you would expect connectivity that is equal to or better than rivals, but that hasn’t been the case to this point. 5G may well be the cure London needs, but currently, performance in other cities like Belfast and Edinburgh has been stronger.- Kevin Hasley: Executive Director of Performance Benchmark, RootMetrics
RootMetric’s data, which was based on more than 593,008 tests conducted using an unmodified Samsung Galaxy S8, revealed that EE was the best overall mobile operator in the UK. But over the 12 months since the last survey both Vodafone, O2 and Three have closed the gap on EE. But, RootMetrics said, Three UK still has some way to go.