While fibre is an essential component of the UK’s connectivity mix, Three’s CEO believes that UK officials have overlooked the potential of 5G mobile backhaul

The UK government and telecoms regulator, Ofcom, have been too focussed on delivering full fibre networks to consider the transformative potential of mobile backhaul, as the country enters the 5G era, according to Three UK.

Speaking at the Connected Britain event in London on Wednesday, Three’s chief exec, Dave Dyson, said that UK officials were too preoccupied with laying fibre to fully appreciate the potential benefits of 5G mobile backhaul.

“My view is that the government and Ofcom have focussed too much on full fibre as the only solution to a more digital Britain. While it is encouraging to see their commitment to improving connectivity in the UK, I think they need to take a step back and ask what do consumers actually need, and how much are they prepared to pay? From there, we can form a view on which technologies are best placed to deliver.

“Fibre will always be a big part of the answer but it’s not the only answer. Wireless backhaul has a significant, and I believe underestimated, role to play,” he said.

Dyson was in a buoyant mood regarding Three’s forthcoming 5G launch, which aims to deploy next generation mobile network services to 25 towns and cities across the UK before the end of the year. At present, Three holds more 5G spectrum than any other operator, including a contiguous 100MHz block in the 3.4-3.8GHz band.  

“[A major] difference between Three and the rest of the UK’s MNOs is our spectrum holding. After years of being constrained by spectrum, I’m very excited about the prospect of being the only operator in the UK who can offer true 5G,” he said.  

In closing, Dyson reiterated the importance of access to competitively priced fibre services for mobile network operators, called on regulators to consider a more prominent role for mobile backhaul, as the country rolls out 5G networks.  

“Fibre is still a crucial part of our broadband infrastructure, even one that looks to leverage the benefits of 5G mobile backhaul. Therefore, it is vitally important that as a country we strive for the most efficient fibre rollout and ensure that there is fair access to that fibre for all parties,” he said.