Mobile operator Three, who founded itself on specializing in the technology, will no longer offer 3G handsets for sale instead focusing on 4G and 5G technology.
Pioneer of 3G to focus on faster 4G and 5G data technologies in future
Mobile operator Three – one of the ‘big four’ service providers in the UK – is to drop the 3G data standard the company founded itself on back in 2003. The company claim it’s a sign of the times as users demand more from their phones, and so faster technologies such as 4G are in more widespread use as will the even faster 5G be when it appears.
Founded on 3G
Three formed in March 2003 as 3G was becoming available and positioned itself as the ‘new’ company fully embracing the then latest 3G standard. It only ever offered 3G handsets and didn’t have a 2G infrastructure to fall back on unlike its older and more established competitors such as Vodafone and then Orange.
Indeed, back when Three entered the marketplace, the other main mobile operators were still focusing on the older 2G technology having paid huge sums to acquire 3G spectrum licenses. Three only had the newer technology so looked to use it as their main ‘selling proposition’ to gain traction as a newcomer to the competitive mobile phone market.
From rather inauspicious beginnings – they had a restricted network and offered a limited range of handsets – Three has gained a significant slice of the market with some 10 million customers and the highest data usage rates in the country.
Other factors that have helped the CK Hutchison owned network to thrive in the UK are very competitive tariffs and industry firsts such as being the first UK network to offer free roaming, 4G at no extra cost and offering customers the use of streaming services such as Netflix without it coming out of their data allowance.
The company are already looking ahead to the next generation of data technology – 5G – and are expecting to launch as soon as the new standard becomes available.
How will it affect existing 3G users?
For those using a 3G only phone or a 4G enabled one where there’s little or no coverage, there’s no change; Three will continue to offer 3G so they’re not forcing users into upgrading their handsets just to stay online. It just means the company won’t offer 3G only handsets from new.
This is not a particular problem though; most new handsets have 4G capability anyway now and coverage is improving as more areas receive the latest standard.
Also, even those not buying the latest release handsets can have the 4G capability – fully featured phones such as Samsung’s 2015 release, the Galaxy S6, are available on the used market and offer 4G.
While 4G becomes the undisputed ‘norm’ it won’t be long before it’s usurped by the next mobile technology, 5G, that is expected to be offered probably within the next two years.
As with their pioneering stance with 3G some 15 years ago and more recently with 4G, Three are expected to quickly embrace and offer the new technology. They’ve already started by splashing out over £150 million to secure some 5G spectrum so establishing a strong position when the new technology appears.
Will Three rebrand to reflect new technology?
While the company denies it, many considered the name Three was chosen to differentiate itself from the other providers who were still using 2G technology. Therefore, might they rebrand when 3G becomes two generations out of date once 5G arrives? Rebranding isn’t uncommon amongst mobile operators with such previously well-known names as Orange and One2One disappearing over the years.