Three Gets Embroiled in More 5G Drama as Its Recent Spate of Ads Gets EE's Hackles Up

By Shabana Arif on at

As the UK mobile networks start rolling out 5G, disputes are popping up left, right, and centre - mostly aimed at Three, who doesn't seem to give a shit. At all.

This week's kerfuffle is the result of a EE taking umbrage with Three's recent ad campaign on social media and in newspapers that states “If it’s not Three, it’s not real 5G.” The claim is based on the fact that Three has dibs on the 3.4-3.8GHz slice of the 5G spectrum, allowing for higher speeds, and better coverage. So much so, that O2 has complained to Ofcom about it.

Ofcom has previously stated that Three's 5G bandwidth wouldn't give the company “an unmatchable competitive advantage,” but it seems like that may not be the case, with the network's incessant bragging about it. The website even states that Three has "more 5G spectrum than anyone else. And not all spectrum is created equal."

EE is seeking a ban on the ads because they clearly imply that alternative networks' 5G is going to be a pile of shit by comparison, and now the Advertising Standards Authority is involved. The body will be investigating whether Three's boasts are misleading and therefore in breach of the advertising code. It'll be interesting to see what the two independent agencies will come with up, given that the conclusion of the two cases will be fairly closely linked. If the ads' claims aren't false, then surely Three does indeed have an unfair advantage over its competitors. And if they are twaddle, Ofcom is more likely to tell O2 to stop making a fuss and back off.

Funnily enough, just last year O2 wasn't planning on launching 5G before 2020, saying that "any UK operator launching ‘5G’ before 2020 would be using a ‘lite version’ of 5G."

That went down about as well as a body in a river without a cement block, and EE made it very clear that its 2019 5G rollout would be very real, and not this 5G lite bullshit that O2 was peddling. Presumably O2 had a change of heart about that itself, moving its own 5G network launch to this October and teaming up with Vodafone to get it up and running in a more timely fashion.

Three's 5G network isn't live just yet, but given the wedge of the spectrum in its grip, and the showboating going on, it seems pretty confident that it has some measure of advantage over the three other major networks. All that bravado may just backfire depending on the findings of the ASA and Ofcom. [The Guardian]