Mobile operator Three is finally starting its rollout of 4G services across the UK, over a year after the first operator EE launched its own 4G network, as it continues to insist that the service is not a massive deal for its customers.
The firm said it aims to have 50 towns online by the end of the first quarter of 2014, and is in the process of bringing areas of London, Birmingham, Manchester and Reading online through December.
Chief executive of Three David Dyson said a test with staff in November had proven the benefits of 4G from a speed perspective, but he said the firm remained of the opinion that 4G is not a game changer. “There are not yet the apps and services that really require 4G,” he added.
Despite this, all customers on Three will be given access to its 4G network at no extra cost over 2014. Most will be sent text messages to inform them that their devices have been moved to 4G.
While the firm said it has not been convinced that there is a huge desire for 4G from customers, citing unimpressive take-up with rivals such as EE, Dyson said there were other benefits to 4G for Three. For example, he said there are reduced costs of data transmission over 4G rather than 3G, which is important for the firm as it sees huge data volume growth on its network.
Underlining this, Three revealed that over 2013 traffic on its network reached 138 petabytes, up from just 0.70 petabytes in 2007, underlining the huge growth in mobile traffic over the past five years or so.
Three also announced a major update to its Feel at Home service, which is now available for customers travelling in the US.
The service allows customers to use their phone for calls, texts and browsing the web abroad, without any additional charges. For calls and texts, though, this means the contact has to be made with someone in the UK, although data roaming remains unlimited.
To date this service has been available in countries where Three’s owner Hutchinson is present, such as Austria, Ireland, Australia and Italy. This, plus its expansion to the US, could prove a huge draw for businesses who regularly have staff travelling overseas and racking up huge bills. It also comes amid ongoing efforts to reduce mobile phone charges when travelling, with the EU and now the UK backing plans to end roaming charges.
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