Meanwhile, in Austria, Three (Hutchison Drei) says it is the first MNO in the country to launch a ‘true 5G’ network. Deutsche Telekom-owned Magenta Telekom (formerly T-Mobile Austria) recently announced ‘5G-ready’ plans but Hutchison Drei says it has turned on full 5G, initially in the city of Linz, where it has upgraded 20 base stations to 5G, and will extend that to offer full coverage in Linz, and 5G in some other cities, by the end of this year.
Hutchison Drei CEO Jan Trionow said: “Other vendors are just ‘5G-ready’ or have upgraded individual transmission masts across Austria. Today we are launching the first true contiguous 5G network that is worthy of the name. While the others only talk about the future, in Linz it is already a reality today. The race for the 5G leadership in Austria is officially open.”
The Austrian operator is one of the few in Europe to be working with ZTE for its 5G RAN, and has generally been favorable to Chinese suppliers, and therefore in the forefront of lobbying European governments not to succumb to US pressure to exclude these vendors from 5G contracts. ZTE was the supplier behind Three Scandinavia’s ground-breaking 4G deployment, a world-first in aggregating TDD and FDD spectrum, and an early indicator of how the whole group aimed to leverage undervalued frequencies, especially TDD, to boost its capacity at low cost. And Three UK is working with Huawei, having used Samsung for 4G, another unusual supplier choice which probably gave it an important combination, for a challenger MNO – competitive prices and the ability to influence the vendor’s developments.
Hutchison Drei’s initial service is limited to enterprise customers with Ars Electronica Center named as one of the first clients, while full consumer services are expected to follow later this year when it has turned on more locations.
This echoes the launch strategy of its UK stablemate, which will initially support only fixed wireless access (FWA) on its 5G network and limit itself to the home market in London.
By the end of the year, Three UK will also be offering mobile services, and will have reached 25 markets including Cardiff, Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. BT’s EE was the first to market, launching its 5G offering last week in six cities, and Vodafone will follow in seven cities on July 3. O2 will follow later in the year.
Three said on announcing its plan: “Our market-leading spectrum portfolio alongside investment in high capacity smart antennas will deliver the fastest 5G network in the UK. At launch, peak mobile speeds will be at least two times faster than other mobile network operators and will provide a more reliable connection and experience for customers.”
The 5G launches are part of Three’s £2bn ($2.5bn) 5G infrastructure investment plan, which calls for it to deploy 5G across 80% of its footprint by the end of 2022. It also says it will expand and extend its 4G network to boost LTE performance fourfold.
Three Ireland says it will start to deploy commercial 5G in late 2019. Hi3G, the Sweden/Denmark operating company, has been investing in high order MIMO and a new transport network to prepare for 5G, which is likely to start deployment in 2020.