The UK is set to see a 6-fold increase in mobile Internet speeds thanks to a long-awaited merger between Three UK and Vodafone UK. The £15 billion merger will create the largest mobile operator in the UK with a market share of over 30% and is poised to deliver reliable 5G connectivity at no extra costs across Britain by 2030. 

With the merger, customers of both Vodafone and Three UK can look forward to an improved network experience right from day one. The combined resources and expertise will allow for the creation of a best-in-class network with superior coverage and reliability. With an emphasis on improved network capabilities, enhanced coverage, and increased investment, this merger promises a future where the UK's mobile infrastructure is at the forefront of technological innovation.

By harnessing 5G technology, the merged company aims to reach over 99% of the country with a standalone 5G network, resulting in a significant increase in average customer speeds. Additionally, the UK’s fiber infrastructure will also be bolstered with 82% of households being given Fixed Wireless Access.

UK ready for rapid growth 

The deal is expected to provide the the UK up to £5 billion per year in economic benefit by 2030, create jobs and support rapid digital transformation of public services and businesses. This means, every school and hospital in the UK will have access to standalone 5G connectivity, enabling them to grow and transform themselves by unlocking possibilities.

One such area poised for remarkable transformation is extended reality (XR), encompassing virtual, augmented, and mixed reality experiences. As this immersive technology becomes more accessible, industries spanning healthcare, education, transportation, and even the military will undergo significant advancements.

Moreover, the merger will enable the rapid implementation of advanced 5G-based innovations in major cities and towns, including around 400 small towns which could benefit from earlier access to high-capacity 5G. 

Let’s examine a few exciting possibilities that could be unlocked by nationwide 5G connectivity.

Closing the digital divide

Nationwide 5G coverage can help bridge the digital divide by ensuring that even remote and underserved areas in the UK have access to high-speed connectivity. This empowers individuals and businesses in rural communities, enabling them to participate fully in the digital economy, access online education and healthcare resources, and connect with the global market of tomorrow. 

By extending connectivity to every corner of the country, 5G helps create a more inclusive and equitable society.

Complementing the AI revolution

The combination of 5G and AI creates a powerful synergy that fosters innovation, improves efficiency, and enhances user experiences. 5G makes it possible to massively reduce latency and rapidly transmit large volumes of data. This abundance of data is invaluable for AI algorithms, which thrive on vast datasets to train and improve their performance. 

With 5G's ability to swiftly transmit data between devices and cloud servers, AI algorithms can access real-time information, analyze it, and provide instant insights and responses. This synergy allows for faster and more accurate decision-making in various applications.

Furthermore, this combination is going to be particularly impactful in the realm of IoT. 5G's low latency and high device density enable massive IoT deployments, connecting billions of devices and sensors. AI systems can leverage this continuous stream of data generated by these devices to extract meaningful insights, detect patterns, and make intelligent decisions. 

Extended Reality (XR)

Extended Reality, encompassing virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR), represents a groundbreaking field that 5G technology can propel forward. By leveraging the high-speed and low-latency characteristics of 5G, XR applications can unlock immense potential in industries such as healthcare, education, transportation, and military.

In healthcare, extended reality can revolutionize medical training, enabling practitioners to simulate complex surgical procedures or diagnose patients remotely. Educational institutions can leverage XR to create immersive learning experiences, transporting students to historically significant events or providing interactive visualizations of complex scientific concepts.

Transportation can also benefit from extended reality by enhancing driver safety and training through realistic simulations. 

In the military domain, 5G-powered XR applications can enable soldiers to train in realistic environments, preparing them for complex missions through complex simulations and making sure they are safe.

Smart cities

The concept of smart cities revolves around harnessing data to optimize energy consumption, enhance transportation efficiency, and improve overall quality of life. 5G networks can serve as the backbone for smart city infrastructure, enabling seamless communication between devices and facilitating the collection and analysis of massive data sets in real-time.

Through the integration of 5G, cities can deploy advanced sensors, connected streetlights, intelligent transportation systems, and efficient energy management solutions. These innovations result in reduced traffic congestion, improved public safety, optimized energy utilization, and enhanced urban planning, making cities more sustainable and livable for residents.

Industrial automation

5G holds immense potential in revolutionizing industrial automation by enabling faster and more efficient communication between machines, processes, and systems. With its high bandwidth and low latency, 5G facilitates real-time monitoring, remote control, and seamless coordination of automated systems, transforming manufacturing and industrial processes.

The ability to connect and synchronize a vast array of machines and devices through 5G networks allows for increased productivity, reduced downtime, predictive maintenance, and optimized resource allocation. 

Encouraging market fairness

The merger is set to level the competitive playing field, increasing competition to the two largest converged operators. With the scale and better quality provided by the combined network, MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) will receive better choice, keeping fierce price competition at the retail level.

What we can expect is a better network experience across the UK with greater coverage and reliability at no extra cost through contract-free offers with no annual price increases, and social tariffs.

The agreement, between CK Hutchinson and the Vodafone Group, is subject to the approval of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). It does not affect the terms and conditions of any existing contracts or agreements in place. The firms will have a combined 27 million customers if the deal gets the green light. 

The proposed merger marks a pivotal moment in the UK mobile market. If approved, it has the potential to unlock significant benefits for customers, assist the country's digital transformation, and foster competition among network operators.