‘No demand’ for 5G sees Three delay roll-out to 2020

2 Dec 2019

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As negotiations with Huawei continue, Three confirmed it will delay the roll-out of 5G as there is ‘no demand’ right now.

Following its previous claim that it will have started to roll out 5G by the end of the year, telecoms operator Three has now confirmed that the ultra-fast mobile standard will not be coming to its network until 2020.

This makes Three the only major network in Ireland not to have 5G up and running, following the launch of Eir’s service in October and Vodafone’s in August. According to the Irish Independent, a Three spokesperson said this was because it saw little point in launching the network in 2019.

“Rather than launch with a small number of sites this year, as other operators have done, we will launch with a substantial footprint in 2020,” they said.

“As a lot of the technology that will exploit the benefits of 5G, including 5G-enabled smartphones, are currently limited in availability, there is no demand that requires an immediate launch.”

Only a small selection of phones are currently 5G compatible in Ireland, including the Huawei Mate 20 X (5G) and Samsung Galaxy S10.

Huawei roadblocks

Behind the scenes, Three is also believed to be in continued negotiations with Chinese giant Huawei over the network’s installation and infrastructure. However, the operator stated that negotiations are “commercially sensitive”.

While Huawei’s presence in Ireland is only increasing following the opening of a new office in October, it continues to face challenges elsewhere. In the US, the telecoms giant recently called on the US government to end its “unjust treatment” over a number of restrictions placed on the company due to its connections to the Chinese state.

Meanwhile, in Europe, Estonia’s government voted to limit the use of Huawei technology in its own 5G network as a result of US recommendations, while the fate of Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G network was pledged to be decided by the end of this year.

Three’s competitors plan to have more sites 5G ready by the end of this year. Eir said that after the initial launch of 100 5G sites, it will have a further 100 by the end of 2019 in towns including Athlone, Bray, Ennis, Killarney, Letterkenny, Navan, Sligo, Tralee, Trim and Wexford.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic