Three announces 800MHz LTE and VoLTE roll out in September

Three today announced a major network expansion that will see 800MHz LTE switched on from September, accompanied by the launch of VoLTE that will ultimately help bring Three coverage to an extra 3.2 million homes.

Throughout the year so far, Three has been silently rolling out 800MHz coverage in many parts of the UK. Now it will finally ‘go live’ with the switch on of VoLTE that will become available to approximately two million Three users (as in, using a handset compatible with VoLTE – such as the iPhone 5s, 6, 6+, Galaxy S6, S6 edge etc). By the end of 2016, this will increase to four million users.

VoLTE will mean the ditching of the requirement to have sufficient 3G coverage as a fallback for voice calls, allowing the 4G coverage to increase beyond the current footprint – massively boosting Three’s 4G coverage footprint (for 800MHz at least, initially).

Owners of phones purchased elsewhere, or older phones, may be able to do a software update to enable VoLTE depending on the age of the device. More information will be provided nearer launch time.

The network also hinted about further improvements to the inTouch service, which currently allows users to make calls and text using Wi-Fi, but not in such a seamless fashion as EE’s recently launched Wi-Fi Calling service. Based on the IMS standard, Three may be stepping up the service to offer a more integrated offering, which will see calls handed off from Wi-Fi to VoLTE, and back to 3G (although there will be no way to move from 3G to VoLTE at present).

Other snippets of news from the evening event include:

  • The 50 megabit cap that was put in place soon after Three’s 4G launch has been removed, meaning there is now no artificial limit to data speeds on its network.
  • Three will get its final allocation of 1800MHz spectrum from EE in October, and should be making it available to all of the UK very soon afterwards.
  • 800MHz will massively increase Three’s coverage footprint, enabling more people to make calls at home or at work.
  • Legacy Orange sites being brought into the MBNL partnership (network share) will see more users in rural areas able to use 3G or 4G where previously only able to use 2G and voice only.
  • Three will continue to work on providing the most reliable network (as voted in YouGov surveys), stating that 36% of customers value coverage, 47% value reliability and 9% value speed.
  • 30% of the data being carried on Three’s network is now on 4G.
  • Over one million users are now using the inTouch Wi-Fi calling service.
  • In 2007, users were consuming 18MB per month, increasing to 3.2GB per month today. Three has for many years built its network to cope with increasing data demands.
  • Three expect to make an announcement shortly that will see HD Voice being available to callers from an as-yet-unannounced network, and vice versa. If I was a betting man, I’d say that would be EE – but it could potentially be Vodafone. Almost zero chance of it being O2!

As ever, nearer the time, I’ll be posting more information about the progress and seeking to get early access to the network to test it out.

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