Eurobites: Three Joins UK's 5G Price War

In today's regional roundup: Positive pricing news for the UK's 5G users; France takes a step closer to passing the 'Huawei law'; Sky Mobile joins the UK's 5G club; Telefónica's second quarter financials; and ECI unveils its first 5G-tailored product.

  • UK mobile operator Three says its 5G service, which will be launched later this year, will have no speed caps and carry no additional charges for all existing and new customers, whether contract, pre-paid or SIM only: SIM only 5G options start at just £20 (US$24.88) per month. The '5G for no extra fee' approach is a competitive response to Vodafone UK, which earlier this month took a 'wrecking ball' to the UK 5G market with its range of packages, which includes low cost, unlimited offers for services that are already available. Three's customers can buy the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G device from today, while the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G devices will be available soon. The operator plans to use its 5G network to offer fixed wireless access (FWA) broadband services in select areas from September, ahead of its 5G mobile service launch. For more details, see this press release.

  • In preparation for its 5G launches, Three has been revamping its network architecture to help improve its 4G services and support its future 5G offers, a plan that has included hooking up to the extensive UK fiber network run by SSE Enterprise Telecoms. The partners plan to trial the capabilities of Three's 5G access network and SSE's supporting fiber transport network in London's West End shopping district, Europe's "busiest shopping district," according to the operator. For more details, see this press release. (See Three UK to Go Big on 5G for Home Broadband, SSE Enterprise Telecoms Deploys Infinera and Eurobites: Three UK Preps for 5G With Backbone Deal.)

  • Both houses of the French parliament have voted in favor of what has become known as the 'Huawei Law,' which gives the French government the power to vet 5G rollouts in the country on security grounds. See this report from our sister site, Telecoms.com. The ultimate fate of Huawei remains uncertain in multiple markets, including the UK. (See Huawei Gets Brexit Treatment as UK Delays Decision.)

  • UK MVNO Sky Mobile will launch 5G services in November, starting in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, as well as Leeds and Slough. It is offering the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G device from launch and will add the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, and other devices, later in the year. Sky Mobile runs on the network of Telefónica UK (O2), which announced its 5G rollout on Thursday, so it is dependent on that network operator's rollout for 5G coverage: Its unique proposition in what will soon be a crowded 5G services market in the UK is its focus on content -- the 'Watch features gives customers unlimited streaming on all Sky Apps, including Sky Go, Sky Sports and Sky Kids without using any data allowance -- and customer-friendly features such as 'Roll,' which enables users to roll over their unused data. "It's becoming harder for telcos to differentiate on connectivity beyond price alone," notes industry analyst Paolo Pescatore of PP Foresight. "Sky, armed with its innovative mobile features and breath of content, is very well placed to compete head on." For more details, see this press release.

  • Speaking of Telefónica UK (O2), the British mobile operator reported a 5.1% increase in revenues for the first six months of the year to almost £3 billion ($3.7 billion), while OIBDA (operating income before depreciation and amortization) was up 6.4% to £919 million ($1.14 billion). O2 UK has 33.3 million mobile connections, though that includes customers connected via MVNO and other agreements: The operator's own retail customer base stands at 25.4 million. For more details, see this press release.

  • Those numbers helped parent operator Telefónica report a 3.7% 'organic' increase in second quarter revenues to €12.1 billion ($13.5 billion), but its operating income dipped by 2% at constant currency rates to €1.8 billion ($2 billion). The operator reduced its debt pile for the ninth consecutive quarter but still has net debt of more than €40 billion ($44.6 billion). Telefónica boasts about 350 million customers (it seems unsure itself exactly how many it has, according to its financial report) of which more than 121 million are 4G customers and 13.6 million are hooked up to fiber or high-speed cable broadband services.

    Telefonica's second quarter revenue breakdown by geography.
    Telefónica's second quarter revenue breakdown by geography.

  • Transport gear vendor ECI Telecom has launched its first product that is "specifically tailored for 5G." The 1022 cell site router, the latest evolution of the vendor's Neptune family of products, is a multi-service, small form factor product that can be housed as a base station or aggregation point and which is designed to support network slicing. It also boasts class C and D synchronization -- increasingly important in 5G networks, where timing control will be critical -- and NetCong/Yang interfaces for software-defined management. ECI has long ben focusing its R&D efforts on meeting 5G transport needs, a move that helped it land a partnership with Ericsson. (See Ericsson Links 5G Hands With Juniper & ECI, Snubs Cisco & Ciena and 5G Potential Is All in the Timing.)

    — Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

  • MartinChristensen 7/29/2019 | 8:25:58 AM
    Sounds good Thanks for your post! 

    I love when new startups can compete with the bigger companies in the market - especially when it comes to mobile broadband.

    I hope this trend continues!

    Best regards

    Martin Christensen

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