The mobile operator 3 has announced that its third-generation services now cover 90 percent of the UK population, giving it a comfortable lead on its rivals.
3 UK — owned by Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa — has operated in the UK for less than four years, but it has already built 7,250 base stations across the country. It only provides 3G services, having bypassed the era of GSM and GPRS.
The rollout has, since 2005, been managed in conjunction with Ericsson, which is responsible for the management, operation and performance of the network and its underlying IT infrastructure.
The closest competitor to 3 in terms of 3G coverage is Orange, which covers 85 percent of the UK population. Vodafone covers "nearly 80 percent", a figure that T-Mobile aims to hit by the end of this year (it reached 70 percent by the end of 2006). The poorest 3G coverage is that of O2, at little more than 60 percent.
3 aims to roll out HSDPA — a higher-speed evolution of 3G — across its network by the end of 2007. Last year it dumped O2 as its backup GSM network for customers straying outside of 3G coverage, opting instead for Orange.