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3 promises to strengthen 'weak' data network

The operator has admitted that people see its mobile broadband network as slow, and has pledged to boost coverage by October
Written by David Meyer, Contributor on

Mobile operator 3 is working to change people's perception of its network as 'weak', chief executive Kevin Russell has said.

Russell, speaking at a briefing on Tuesday, said people's poor experiences with early 3G handsets had combined with the recent, sudden explosion in mobile data use to create a bad impression of the operator's network. He said 3 would make "big changes" this year to address that problem.

"The number-one challenge at 3 would be the legacy perception of our network [as] weak," Russell said, adding that the perception was "probably deserved in many ways".

Russell described 3's download speeds in the first half of 2009 as "poor", adding that the company had been "absorbing the ramp-up in terms of mobile broadband". A year ago, fewer than a million of 3's customers were using the internet on their handsets — that figure is now roughly 2.2 million, he said.

On a single day in January, 75TB of data went across the operator's networks, 3 chief technology officer Graham Baxter said at the same briefing.

According to Baxter, the operator offers outdoor 3G coverage to 92.5 percent of the UK. It aims to increase that coverage to 98 percent by 10 October, by setting more mast sites live through 3's joint venture with T-Mobile, he said. The sites will all offer 7.2Mbps HSDPA connectivity.

"The big changes for us in terms of customer experience [will come in] the next eight to 10 months," Russell said.

3 is not the only operator to have found its network under strain due to the rapid take-up of mobile data use. In November, O2 announced plans for a massive investment in rolling out more base stations.

Russell mentioned at the briefing that 3, which in October brought out its first Android smartphone in the form of the HTC Hero, intended to invest further in the Google platform.

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