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Three in no rush to switch to 4G as it gains 1 million users

Mobile network Three has announced that it has gained 1.04 million new subscribers in 2012 which brings its customer total up to 8.8 million. This last fiscal quarter saw 300,000 people join Three's service, supporting the company's declaration that the UK's smallest network is now the fastest growing mobile service provider.

Three also recorded 192,000 pre-pay customers and 850,000 contract customers within a 12 month period. The growth of its user base has seemingly emboldened the network provider to persist in its plan to forego 4G.

While it has reserved a portion of the 1800MHz 4G spectrum via a previous arrangement with EE, David Dyson, chief executive of Three believes that the impact of 4G is being overstated.

"I don't think 4G as a mass-market proposition is necessarily going to be a game changer, when you compare it against the latest generation of 3G," Dyson told ZDNET.

"So I don't think there is an immediate need to accelerate any sort of technologic upgrade to LTE in time scales which would be inconsistent with when we expect to get that 1800MHz spectrum," he added."

Three has instead opted for the deployment of DC-HSPA which is an upgrade to the 3G spectrum (leading to its other assignation, 3.5G). By utilising this dual carrier technology, phones with two antennas will be able to achieve data speeds of 20Mb - both the iPhone 5 and the HTC 8X will be available on this service.

This new "Ultrafast" service also comes with the advantage that it already covers 50 towns in the UK. Three still needs to install dual-carrier radios to facilitate the use of its upgraded 3G and is already on course to support 50 per cent of the 3G enabled region by the end of this month – with 80 per cent coverage expected to be achieved by April 2013.

"These network improvements are designed to maintain our position as the fastest growing UK mobile operator,"said David Dyson.