back to article While everyone coos at the promise of 5G, UK network Three asks if it can tempt you with 4G+

Hutchison's UK network Three has upgraded 2,700 urban sites to support faster 4G data. The introduction of carrier aggregation technology on the network has enabled it to boost downloads by an average of 33 per cent, said Three UK. Users in cities, traditionally the most congested areas, will see the benefit, which manifests …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Hutchison's UK network Three has upgraded 2,700 urban sites to support faster 4G data."

    Funny, I have recently disabled 4g on my THREE phone, to achieve a more stable connection. I'm sick and tired of it flapping between 3g, H+ and 4g.

    As I type this, my phone sitting on my desk has a miserable 1 bar of 3g signal, and often reverts to 'no service' - right in the middle of central London. It seems that this place is swamped with Vodafone and EE coverage but naff-all of THREE for some reason.

    If their upgrade doesn't improve anything, might be time to jump ship to GiffGaff.

    1. Rathernicelydone

      Re: Upgrade?

      I am on O2 which is also what GiffGaff uses - be careful with using O2 as they don't seem to have enough capacity to handle larger volume of devices. Without fail when I am at London Paddington during rush hour I cannot get any data services at all. Strong signal but no data.

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

        Re: Upgrade?

        Yeah have to agree in Manchester and London in various parts I found although I had a full signal they were slow.

    2. dave 81

      Re: Upgrade?

      IIRC The problem with Three is they have a shit 3g allocation of the spectrum which does not penetrate very well.

  2. IsJustabloke
    Thumb Up


    I have to say I've not got any complaints about Three. I generally find their signal and data rates to be spot on. There are a couple of places around where I live that no operator seems to get a signal in.

    of course, with Three I also get the added benefit of using my phone abroad as though I'm at home. I travel quite a lot so that's important to me

    1. Danny 14

      Re: Interesting...

      agreed though i usually turn 4g off as my phone runs for longer on H+. H+ guves about 20Mb which is more than enough for everything I do.

      I see no point to 5g on a phone unless it is a tether point for a building.

      1. Zilla

        Re: Interesting...

        Then I think you misunderstand the point of 5G.

        It's not just about theoretical data rates to an individual phone. It's about scaling data rates in aggregate in congested areas where there simply isn't enough 4G spectrum to go around.

        1. Cuddles Silver badge

          Re: Interesting...

          "Then I think you misunderstand the point of 5G.

          It's not just about theoretical data rates to an individual phone. It's about scaling data rates in aggregate in congested areas where there simply isn't enough 4G spectrum to go around."

          I think you misunderstand the point of 5G.

          It's not about data rates at all. It's about a marketing buzzword that's been thrown around so much that now the poor engineers are having to desperately scramble to come up with a real idea it can be attached to. No-one has any clue what the standard might actually end up looking like or what purpose will be retroactively attached to it, but as long as we can throw around terms like IoT and blockchain, at least we can all have a good game of buzzword bingo.

    2. Nifty Silver badge

      Re: Interesting...

      "There are a couple of places around where I live that no operator seems to get a signal inL

      Like Waterloo station and environs anytime between 16:30 and 18:30?

  3. Lee D


    I wonder if my Huawei 4G box on Three supports this? I can only find conflicting information and, of course, they may not have enabled my local base station.

    Anyone know what kind of hardware revision/Android version you need to see this on your phone?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. ARGO

      It needs to be category 6 or higher to take advantage. From their website, current 3uk routers are only cat 4. The handset range goes up to cat 18 though.

  4. Malcolm Hall

    Such a con

    They'd call it 5G if they could so I'm glad they have been prevented doing so. Three got away with selling their 3G as 4G last time around and now all the poor folk who use Three have no way of knowing if they are on a 3G or a real 4G LTE tower.

    1. Soruk

      Re: Such a con

      Thought that was AT&T over in Westpondia that marketed HSPA as 4G. Never heard of that from 3UK.

    2. ARGO

      Re: Such a con

      Nope, that was the yanks. No UK network ever called HSDPA 4G.

      1. Danny 14

        Re: Such a con

        three didnt even brand it as H+, i think they just said fast 3g

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Such a con

          Three called dual carrier HSDPA "ultrafast". Which is naff, but not "4G".

          (and not as naff as 4G supervoice which they've come up with more recently)

  5. Andre Carneiro

    4G+ icon?

    Is this a thing on iPhones? I’ve never seen or heard of it...

    1. Martin Summers

      Re: 4G+ icon?

      Apple haven't invented it yet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 4G+ icon? - Apple haven't invented it yet.

        They will.

    2. Marcelo Rodrigues

      Re: 4G+ icon?

      "4G+ icon?

      Is this a thing on iPhones? I’ve never seen or heard of it..."

      My Moto Z2 Play has it.

  6. Zmodem

    33% would me it 20% slower then 3G

  7. Joe Harrison


    My previous Huawei phone had a configurable option for carrier aggregration, with a big warning not to turn it on unless you knew what you were doing. My current Xiaomi phone doesn't have that option but does light up VoLTE quite frequently. The rest of the time it flickers between 3G, H+, E, R, and a couple others I forgot.

    I agree with @Rathernicelydone that none of it matters if the carrier's connection to the internet is maxed out, which does seem to happen.

  8. xpz393

    Three's 4G significantly slower than their 3G

    I frequently experience unbearably slow 4G speeds with Three, despite having a decent signal strength, and a device which can support all of Three’s 4G spectrum frequencies, and carrier aggregation.

    My work-around is to switch 4G off, forcing the device back to 3G. Hey-presto, problem solved.

    Where I am right now, on Three:

    4G : 3 Mb down, 50ms latency

    3G : 22 Mb down. 25ms latency

    This is the complete opposite to what I experienced previously with EE on the same device. That said, EE were charging me 3x more per month :-/

    Let's hope this new strategy fixes the problem nationally.

    1. leexgx

      Re: Three's 4G significantly slower than their 3G

      Your probably on 4g800 (if you can make a call and keep 4g connected your on the slow 4g800 witch priority VoLTE not data resulting in slow speeds (other 4g bands on 3 are not enabled for VoLTE calling resulting in dropping to 3g to allow call to work )

      Be nice if CA is available here or not

      You need to put phone into flight mode and back out and see if it puts you on 4g2100 or 4g1800 if available in your area

      On iPhone you won't know if your on VoLTE 4g800 or most android phones, unless it's China ones (cubot, ulefone, Huawei or Samsung show VoLTE)

      One thing that is annoying on three and ee they don't allow active data session session 4g up (so if your connection drops to 3g it will stay on 3g until your data goes idle for about 3-10 seconds) unsure if vodafone is. Same

      O2 (and o2 NVMO s) on the other hand will happy switch up and down 3g and 4g when better signal is available even if data is active (twitch youtube, streaming audio etc)

  9. Steve Medway

    There is no such thing as 4G+, The original UK LTE networks ≠ 4G. Only LTE-A = 4G

    Later revisions of HSDPA were officially 3.75G, bog standard LTE was more like 3.85G - according to official 3GPP standards it never was 'real' 4G.

    We missed the boat on real 3G network deployments in the UK and then jumped on LTE too early so got shafted the other way round because the kit & backhaul wasn't ready.

    t's just a bloddy good job a lot of the LTE kit deployed could be upgraded to LTE-A instead of being thrown away, but it would still have been more economical for the networks (and better for consumers) to upgrade 3G to the max 3GPP release and skip of standard LTE altogether.

    We should have gone straight to LTE-A/4G networks when the software for the radio hardware was actually ready (and the back-haul networks upgraded) which was about three years ago.

    So in actuality we ended up being late to the 4G party in the same way as we were late to the 3G party. Those marketers are great at covering up crap like this.

    1. xpz393

      So, did Three get closer to "upgrading 3G to the max 3GPP release" than the other networks, and if so, is that why I find their 4G s*cks b*lls compared to their 3G?

      1. Steve Medway

        Surprisingly yes, they did! Purely because they didn't own enough 4G spectrum.

        They have more now but it takes time to roll out new frequency capacity - EE/BT ate most of it which really hurt all the other UK networks involved in the original 4G spectrum auction.

        1. xpz393

          Interesting. Though, it's good to know that at least one of them got it (almost) right.

          I guess this is why Three seem to have been particularly vocal about "Spectrum Fairness" when it comes to 4G.

          I wonder how it could've been if Ofcom had allowed the O2/Three merger when it was proposed a year or so ago. I guess we'll never know now :(

          1. Steve Medway

            The only 'truthful' answer I've ever been able to come up with why the BT/EE merger was allowed and the O2/Three merger was rejected was the lining of pockets.

            It certainly wasn't down to European 'competitive landscape' reasons, EE/BT + Vodafone + O2/Three with equal spectrum would have been great for competition because the playing field would have been level.

            That is unless that is Ofcom were convinced they would collude to jack up prices in step with each other... which might be a second 'truthful' answer, but as you say we'll never know.

            1. xpz393

              You share my thoughts on the subject entirely.

              Sadly, it's one of many examples I've experienced over the years where the solution that makes the most sense from an engineering perspective is often not the solution implemented.

              C'est la vie.

  10. NiceCuppaTea

    Nationalized mobile infrastructure with network operators buying bajillions of minutes in bulk and reselling them to us paupers is the only way to achieve true market "fairness" imo.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Because that works so well when openreach do it for fixed connections :-/

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