Three UK launches 5G-ready cloud core network in time for 5G rollout

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Three UK and Nokia have launched a 5G-ready cloud core network to prepare for the rollout of Three UK's 5G network.

What they say is a world-first core network is built to offer increased security, flexibility and cost savings, designed to allow Three UK to scale faster and more efficiently.

According to the network provider, the core network will be managed from its 20 new data centres across the UK in preparation of the 5G network, which is expected to launch in August.

"We get a lot of flexibility around what we can do with the network by deploying this core," Tim Boyd, director of business transformation at Three UK told Computerworld UK. "Traditionally, you deploy a network and it's for one set of customers and you can sell some products that differentiate.

"With what we've built, we're able to sell solutions effectively. So we could sell a solution to an airport, as an example, using this core network that completely differentiates from the solution our other customers would get."

In essence, the core network will provide Three UK's 5G customers with scalability and capacity at speed whilst providing a faster time to market for customers to effectively access new products.

"We're starting to see the device ecosystem change, so we're now seeing proper 5G devices. If you look at any evolution of a Gigabit, it's a thing of maturity so the first release will be good, then the next release will be better," Boyd said.

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"For us, it was always about the quality not the timing and we wanted to build something that was fit for the future, as opposed to just upgrading our existing network to then have to do a big shift once we've launched the product to get it right," Boyd added.

The core network, which is part of the provider's £2 billion 5G infrastructure investment, stands as a good starting point in ensuring customers enjoy a smooth experience from the get-go, the telco said.

To enable this, Three UK integrates a number of Nokia's products and services that are combined and deployed to provide customers with a reliable service.

Boyd explained that Nokia was in a space to offer the best portfolio of products that Three UK needed, and following on from a long term partnership the trust was already built.

"The foundations of their product existed," he said. "So if you look at their SDN [software-defined networking] solutions, it is just a very mature product and so just because the core is new to SDN it doesn't mean SDN is new.

"Also, from a customer perspective, ideally they don't see the core network so it's not a problem for customers but that's why for us, the sooner we built that foundation, the better.

"It gives us the opportunity to differentiate, I think that's the biggest advantage. We are fairly unrestricted on capacity on the network so we don't have to worry too much about capping speeds and those sorts of things, and most importantly we get to a cost base that allows us to scale without huge cost overhead."

Three UK is expected to begin rolling out its 5G network in August across 25 UK cities, including London, Birmingham and Bolton.

Nokia will also provide the essential systems integration, security, routing software and mobile radio technology required ahead of the rollout.

"The 5G standard themselves will evolve," said Boyd, "so the initial launch standard that everyone's [competitors] adopted is not the end standard for 5G, the end standard is for a standalone quote, which has now been released."

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