Three to provide free rural mobile broadband

But it may have an ulterior motive as regards next year's spectrum auctions
Adam Smith
Adam Smith -

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Three has announced its intention to help out the so-called not-spots in the UK, those areas with very poor access to the internet who can’t get broadband (or only chronically slow broadband).

These rural areas are the commercially non-viable territory Virgin and BT aren’t interested in until the government starts waving subsidy cash around (which has started to happen this year).

But for some areas, getting hooked up to broadband is going to be a very slow process, so Three has decided to lend a temporary helping hand.

According to a report on the BBC, the network operator is to bring mobile net access to eleven villages across the UK, starting with Gringley-on-the-hill (which is, presumably, Gringley-miles-from-the-exchange, as well).

Three will provide 30 dongles to the people of the village complete with free data plans, and also wi-fi hot-spots in the community centre and the local pub.

This isn’t forever, though, but for the next year. And as the Beeb report suggests, Three isn’t doing this purely out of the goodness of its heart. In fact, it may be part of a plan to get better leverage on the wireless spectrum debate.

When it comes to the low frequency airwaves which will be auctioned off next year, other operators fear because there’s no cap on amounts which can be secured, Vodafone and O2 are going to snap up a disproportionate share of next-gen access.

With this move, Three apparently intends to showcase the quality of its network, which may put it in a better position when it comes to divvying up the wireless spoils.

The Beeb recently produced a 3G coverage map of the UK, but Three wasn’t happy with the results, saying it reflected customer usage rather than the actual strength of the networks.

Three claims to have the most expansive 3G network in the UK, but less customers than some of the bigger operators, something it obviously hopes to change.

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