Three expands 5G backhaul deal with CityFibre

(Image credit: Three)

Three has agreed a multi-million pound expansion of its fibre backhaul partnership with CityFibre, strengthening the former’s nationwide 5G rollout.

Backhaul describes the physical connection between base station and an operator’s core network. In the 5G era, fibre backhaul is essential if operators are to manage the expected increases in mobile traffic and power services that require ultra-low latency.

Three uses a combination of suppliers, including BT, SSE Enterprise Telecoms and Virgin Media and began working with CityFibre to provide backhaul to its 5G sites outside of London earlier this year.

Three 5G CityFibre

This expansion will see 1,300 masts across 59 towns and cities connected to CityFibre’s network – more than tripling Three’s initial commitment. In addition, the two companies will align their respective network rollouts, boosting Three’s 5G service and giving CityFibre an additional tenant for its networks.

The deal also includes provisions for small cells. Such micro infrastructure will allow operators to densify their networks so they can deploy high capacity, low-range spectrum in urban areas. This will boost coverage in busy urban areas and also provide reliable connectivity for mission critical applications.

Three is the UK’s smallest mobile operator but believes 5G will allow it to lead the market for the first time thanks to its spectrum holdings. Thanks to auction victories and the acquisition of UK Broadband, Three says it has the most usable 5G spectrum of any UK network and that it has 100 MHz of contiguous 3.4GHz airwaves that will allow it to offer the fastest, most reliable connection.

“We are increasing investment across our network to meet the ever increasing demand for data by UK consumers,” declared Susan Buttsworth, Three UK COO. “Fibre backhaul is a vital part of a reliable network experience and this investment will mean better connectivity for our customers across the UK.”

CityFibre is investing £4 billion in its fibre network, believing it can establish itself as a genuine competitor to Openreach. It believes major backhaul contracts like this one are evidence that it is becoming the UK’s third major digital infrastructure platform.

“We are excited to deepen our support for Three’s ambitious 5G rollout. It’s clear that the alignment of two national consumer and mobile digital infrastructure rollouts has huge benefits, not just for us, but for the cities and communities we are connecting,” added Greg Mesch, CityFibre CEO.

“Working together we can deploy 5G and Full Fibre further and more efficiently, creating a word class digital infrastructure that allows agile and distributed applications for millions.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.