EE and Three forge new pact over 4G rollout

Deal reckoned to be worth £1bn

3G is a mere 2 Mbit/s slower than 4G/LTE

Britain’s biggest mobile operator EE has has signed a new network sharing deal with rival Three (3UK) as the pair continue their joint rollout of 4G infrastructure. The deal, thought to be worth around £1 billion, will split the cost of building masts as well as the transmission costs between them and the national networks. Though EE was the first UK mobile operator to offer its customers 4G services, Three has been slow to adopt high speed 4G/LTE networks. Less than a year ago, CEO David Dyson was even telling journalists that he couldn’t conceive a “mass migration” to 4G.

He told them, “We have tested 4G and seen what it can deliver and our [3G] network stacks up very well.”

Now he appears to have had second thoughts, with the deal marking the operator’s first major investment in 4G which will be provided at no extra charge to all existing customers.

If all goes to plan, Three’s 4G network will cover 50 UK locations by the end of the year and 98 per cent of the country’s population by 2015.

Three and T-Mobile (now EE) first signed a network share agreement in 2007, but Three – Britain’s smallest mobile network is owned by Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa.

It has been slow to prioritise 4G, being the last of the UK’s four operators to switch to it in December 2013.

Tony Dennis adds … Three, of course, has always claimed that its 3G network using DC-HSDPA ( Dual Carrier – High Speed Data Packet Access ) is virtually as fast as LTE/4G anyway. It argues that its Ultrafast DC-HSDPA network offers throughputs of 12 Mbit/s whereas 4G/LTE is a mere 2 Mbit/s faster at 14 Mbit/s. (See 3UK’s web site here).

About Dave Evans

Dave Evans is a long established commentator on both the IT and cellular industries. His current focus is on share price trends within the sector. You can email him here
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