Finnegan's wake-up call to coronavirus yobs

Three's CEO gives update on vandalism, network usage trends and employees as UK lockdown enters seventh week.

Ken Wieland, contributing editor

May 6, 2020

2 Min Read
Finnegan's wake-up call to coronavirus yobs

Since UK lockdown measures came into force on March 23, there have been over 30 attacks on Three's mast sites by idiots thinking there's a link between 5G and COVID-19.

Robert Finnegan, the mobile operator's CEO, was scathing about those inflicting the damage (although he didn't call them idiots). "Each and every one [of those attacks]," he said, "endangered lives."

He explained that the damage had led to a loss or degradation of connectivity for almost 100,000 people. "This means loved ones are not able to check in on one another and access to critical services could be hindered despite emergency calls being unaffected," said Finnegan.

The CEO's remarks were part of an update on how Three's been doing since the UK went to lockdown. At one stage, Finnegan appeared to address directly those who might be involved in the damage (or thinking about it).

"There is absolutely no link between 5G and coronavirus," said Finnegan with commendable restraint and patience. "The 5G rollout by all UK MNOs complies with all global standards on health and safety which have been developed since the early 1990s."

He even referred to recent independent testing carried out by UK regulator Ofcom for those unwilling to take his word. Sadly, those engaging in this type of moronic vandalism seem unlikely to be swayed by reason, or to spend time sifting through a report on "Electromagnetic Field measurements near 5G mobile phone base stations."

Network on spikes
Not surprisingly, Three started to see big traffic volume increases in March (lockdown began on March 23, but people were encouraged to work from home a week prior).

The number of calls jumped 8%, to 2.5 billion, during the month; average call duration increased by 21%, to almost 4 minutes; and data usage was up 12% in March despite main video providers reducing the quality of their streaming. Use of Zoom leaped a spectacular 1325% and FaceTime usage shot up by 100%.

"Traffic is still significantly above normal levels for calls and data, and the steps that we have taken in adding extra capacity are working," said Finnegan.

Employees on furlough
"Following direction by the government," added Finnegan, "we have closed our stores and we have taken the decision to furlough about 80% of our retail staff on 100% pay, in order to be able to protect these roles for the future." The rest of the retail team is supporting customer queries remotely.

Three's contact centers in India and Glasgow have also remained closed since the end of March, "as per the advice from the UK and Indian governments." Some remote-working advisors have been set up across India and Scotland, however.

— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Ken Wieland

contributing editor

Ken Wieland has been a telecoms journalist and editor for more than 15 years. That includes an eight-year stint as editor of Telecommunications magazine (international edition), three years as editor of Asian Communications, and nearly two years at Informa Telecoms & Media, specialising in mobile broadband. As a freelance telecoms writer Ken has written various industry reports for The Economist Group.

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