3 UK has confirmed it will commercially launch LTE next year, signing up Samsung to help build-out the new network.
The Hutchison Whampoa-owned operator is the UK’s smallest, but has recently received LTE-suitable spectrum from market leader Everything Everywhere, which could see it launch a 4G service ahead of many of its rivals.
“3’s customers will start benefitting from this investment in our core network early next year and those benefits will grow further as we deploy new spectrum,” said CEO Dave Dyson.
As part of the deal with Samsung, the South Korean vendor will deploy LTE base stations, “including all associated systems and network support services,” across 3's nationwide network. The solution will be tested by the pair this year and will move to “full deployment and commercialisation” in 2013.
The deployment marks Samsung’s first commercial mobile network rollout in Europe, though it already has LTE equipment contracts in place with operators such as Sprint and MetroPCS in the US, KDDI in Japan, and Mobily in Saudi Arabia.
“Currently, one in four LTE connections globally are brokered through Samsung’s LTE infrastructure,” claimed Mark Thompson, sales and marketing director of Samsung’s European Network Operations. “3 UK will be the first of many European operators to benefit from this wealth of experience.”
It is not yet known if other major network vendors are involved in the LTE deployment, although Samsung's statement does not suggest the deal is exclusive.
It has been a pivotal week for the UK’s nascent 4G market. On Tuesday, UK regulator Ofcom gave the green light for Everything Everywhere to use its 1800MHz bandwidth for 4G – allowing it to launch services before year-end and ahead of fresh spectrum auctions.
Everything Everywhere then agreed to sell two chunks (2x15MHz) of 1800MHz spectrum to 3, which 3 said would more than double the capacity on its network. The deal to divest the spectrum was part of the regulatory conditions imposed on the merger between Orange UK and T-Mobile UK that created Everything Everywhere in 2010. Ofcom has said that 3 will also be able to use the bandwidth for 4G services.