David Dyson, CEO of 3 UK (pictured), wrote off bluster about 5G tests he claimed were unlikely to provide meaningful results in an apparent swipe at rival EE, which hours earlier unveiled a plan for the country’s “first” trial of the technology.
“We will start doing 5G trials in early 2019,” Dyson said at an event held to detail the operator’s 5G roadmap. He noted there is little point in attempting to take the title of the UK’s first 5G trial, because infrastructure company Arqiva had already conducted tests in 2017.
3 UK’s event came hours after EE announced plans for the UK’s “first 5G test network” scheduled to begin in October in central London. In a statement EE said five local businesses and homes had been selected to test the new network using prototype fixed broadband devices.
Dyson’s comments are the latest in a series of spats between 3 and its UK rivals over 5G since the start of the spectrum allocation process. The operator was heavily criticised by competitors and regulator Ofcom for delaying the auction by repeatedly appealing to the High Court to have the terms changed.
At the time 3 said spectrum caps imposed were too lenient on EE and Vodafone UK. Its complaint and subsequent appeal were eventually thrown out. When the auction was took place earlier this year, 3 acquired the smallest allocation of 5G-targeted spectrum and none of the additional 4G capacity on offer.
At today’s event, Dyson attributed its relatively low level of bidding to the lack of a business case for making huge spectrum investments to serve a customer base significantly lower than rivals. However, he added due to the acquisition of fixed broadband company UK Broadband in 2017 the company holds the largest amount of 5G usable spectrum.
3 plans to launch a fixed wireless access (FWA) service in late 2019 through its Relish brand – bought as part of the UK Broadband deal, which currently only operates in London and Swindon. 3 also plans a wholesale upgrade of the back-end systems including a virtual core mobile network and IT system overhaul.
“5G is fundamental to us,” Dyson said, adding the new technology would allow it to further exploit and grow Relish, and increase its ability to serve its current mobile base.
Dyson noted his company had made lower investments in 4G than rivals, so it “needed 5G more than they do” to ensure the company keeps growing.