May now bring it forward rather than lose customers
Britain’s fourth biggest mobile operator, Three (3UK), may bring forward its introduction of 4G networks in a bid to counter the headstart gained by rivals. The carrier had originally intended to introduce 4G by the end of 2013, but now CEO, David Dyson, has revealed its customers could have access to the ultra-fast networks by this Summer if thought necessary.
Britain’s biggest operator EE, which owns the Orange and T-Mobile brands, launched 4G last year while O2 and Vodafone are set to follow within the next few months.
Until now Dyson has played down concerns that Three will be last to offer 4G, telling journalists only in March, “A mass migration is hard to conceive. We’ve tested 4G and seen what it can deliver and our network stacks up very well.”
But now, with the prospect of its customers being lured away by rivals who do offer 4G, it seems Dyson may be having a change of heart.
Refering yesterday to whether implementation might be brought forward he declared, “As to whether it’s a few months earlier, I’m pretty relaxed.”
“We can defend the position we’ve got without necessarily having to jump into 4G too quickly. If in coming months it looks like we’re losing momentum in the market, then maybe we can pull a lever that says we can accelerate.”
A potential fly in the ointment, however, is how well talks go between Three and EE, which acquired vital spectrum in Ofcom’s 4G auction in January.
The two companies are currently in talks on a deal that could see them working together on their respective networks.
Meanwhile Three -if it does accelerate 4G rollout, has pledged not to charge its customers extra for the services.
Recently it revealed how it had added 112,000 contract customers in the first three months of the year but lost 122,000 pay-as-you-go users, the first time it has seen a net decline for over the year.
In December last year  Three, owned by Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, awarded a £120 million management contract to controversial Chinese equipment maker, Huawei, in a deal lasting five years and aimed at improving its core network management.
* Footnote: Vodafone has struck a deal with German operator Deutsche Telekom to sell high-speed internet and TV services in the country, though the pact has put a question mark over whether the UK operator will now continue in its attempts to buy Kabel Deutschland, the cable firm it was rumoured earlier this year to be trying to buy for £9 billion.