Three UK has announced an ambitious network and IT overhaul as it seeks to get ahead of the competition on 5G with efficiency gains from infrastructure updates.
UK CEO David Dyson outlined how the telecoms giant had ‘virtualised’ both its IT operations and its RAN (Radio Access Network) and core networks and hinted that 5G wouldn’t be introduced at a premium. He did stress though that the launch will be predicated on the availability of handsets that can receive 5G.
Currently there isn’t a phone in use that can make use of a 5G signal. The closest device currently is Verizon’s Moto Mod sled, which attaches to the back of a phone.
While the 3G operations will stay as they are, at least until 2022, Three is virtualising the RAN and the core network. It is also doing the same to IT operations, running some 80% of its applications on virtualised containers in the public cloud, a first for a telco.- Graham Baxter: Chief Operations Officer, Three UK
Three’s overhaul will be introduced at different times. Getting the RAN networks ready will mean replacing base stations with bigger ones to meet the capacity and performance requirements of 5G.
Meanwhile the core network will move from three data centres to 20, with 17 already active. Three’s nationwide dual-fibre ring is now live, with the firm boasting that it is the ‘world’s first virtualised core network’, built with assistance from Nokia Networks.
According to the announcement, Three will partner with SSE for the data centres and with O2 for the sewers, while CityFibre is another mentioned partner.
CEO David Dyson spoke of Three grabbing 170 BT exchanges with another 100 to come in the future. Mayfair and Soho will be test-beds and the telecoms giant includes trials of the sewer-based fibre mentioned this week. But David Dyson also highlighted difficulties it had experienced with BT.
Dealing with BT was as difficult as ever. Even when you dig your infrastructure yourself rather than rely on BT’s ducts and poles. There needs to be a tight regime around SLAs (Service Level Agreements) so they don’t make things more difficult for other people to do things they want to do themselves.- David Dyson: CEO, Three UK
Mr Dyson said that capital expenditure would be around £400 million a year once the technology was in place and the network virtualisation were complete. What the CEO did not commit to was a launch date. But then no one has at this point.