New customers of mobile operator Three UK, specifically those taking their 5G based unlimited Home Broadband packages (priced from £21 per month), are now being supplied with a new hub (router) from ZTE. This appears to replace the prior model that was supplied by Huawei (their 4G hub also moved to ZTE last year).
As per usual, Three UK’s website doesn’t provide a lot of detail on their new ZTE 5G Hub router, although it’s listed as supporting Wi-Fi 6 (4×4 MIMO), with 2 x 1 Gigabit Ethernet ports and 1 x Phone port (amusingly this is said to have been “disabled“).
The Hub’s chipset is based off the Qualcomm 5G SDX55M processor and claims to support a theoretical maximum download speed of 3.8Gbps (Three’s current network will only peak at up to 1Gbps), although most real-world 5G speeds on their network tend to ‘average‘ around 100Mbps+.
The device itself looks like a ZTE MC801A 5G Hub, although Three UK make no mention of whether it has the usual ports for connecting an external antenna (we only get a front-side view), but we assume it probably does. We do wish they’d include such details on their site, since these are crucial for a lot of people who will be using such harder.
One potential caveat with the MC801A is that it claims to only support up to 30 WiFi users at the same time, which is quite low, and we suspect it can probably cope with more. Credits to Aaron and Barry for highlighting the new kit to us.
Specification of the ZTE MC801A 5G Hub
* Chipset: Qualcomm 5G SDX55M
* CPU: Cortex A7 up to 1.4GHz
– Network technology: 5G NR, 3GPP Rel 15 5G NR SA & NSA option 3X – Network frequencies: 5G: 41/77/78/79 – Support 4G LTE Band: 1/3/7/20/28/40 and 3G WCDMA Band: 1/8
* Data rate speeds: – 5G – Download: 3.8 Gbit/s and Upload: 542 Mbit/s – LTE Category 22 (DL: 2.4 Gbit/s and UL: 316 Mbit/s), 5CA, MIMO 4×4 for B1/3/7
* Modulation: DL 256QAM, UL 64QAM
* Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax(WiFi 6), dual-band, 4×4 MIMO
* WiFi 5GHz: up to 80MHz, 2 x 2 MIMO, up to 1.2Gb/s
* WiFi 2.4GHz: up to 40MHz, 2 x 2 MIMO, up to 575Mb/s
* WLAN encryption standards: WPA, WPA2, WPS
* Supports up to 30 WiFi users simultaneously
* Functions: Blocklist, 3 SSIDs (2 Primary, 1 Guest)
* Interface: – SIM card slot(NANO SIM) x 1 – Tel port(RJ11) x 1 (CSFB) – WAN/LAN GE port * 1 – 1GE port(RJ45) * 1 – DC port x 1
* Administration console: Full access from a web browser 192.168.0.1
* Button: Power button, reset button
* Cellular Antenna Ports: 2 slots for external antenna with TS-9 connector
* SIM Card size type: NANO SIM
* Other features: MAC address filtering, Wi-Fi encryption authentication, VPN, IPv6 support, VoLTE, DMZ, SSID, Guest SSID, Port Forwarding, Watchdog Service, DHCP settings, network selection, APN settings etc.
On the issue of Three’s network performance and that 1Gbps figure, the operator’s technical page for this router states the following: “Qualcomm 5G SDX55M NSA/SA / Device Theoretical Max – 3.8Gbps Download (Three UK Network – Up to 1Gbps) / Actual speeds will depend on network coverage.”
However, Three has informed us that, at radio level, their “theoretical max is 2.1Gbps and this is soon to increase to 2.9Gbps … Realistic max is around 2/3 of that, and 1.2Gbps is consistently seen on our test site.” In addition, the operator confirmed that the router does indeed have 2 x TS-9 antenna ports.
I was sent an e-mail yesterday offering me a replacement to this new hub which is coming tomorrow – When I get it happy to take some pics and answer your antenna question 🙂
Can you also check if it has the all important bridge mode setting.Some of the very early Huawei 5g ones did until they removed various usefull functions .
Ive managed to get 1080mbps Download with 84.1 Upload speed in my testing (on Smarty)
Holy smokes. That’s great
That seems nothing like three uk 4g in my area. Averages 500kbpts 🙁
I have had 1.6gbps on Three so not sure it is capped?
The “up to 1Gbps” figure is from their own website with the new router. I suspect they’re just managing expectations.
Unless you got that result via Fast.com, which is known for radically overestimating speeds on gigabit services :). I’ve seen more than a few 1Gbps lines returning 1.2-1.6Gbps results, even though they’re plugged into 1G Ethernet ports.
Got to be an improvement on the appallingly underpowered B535-232 they previously shipped to 4G customers. Guess you need to take out a 5G contract with them to get the router though?
That ZTE router has been on Amazon for a while for about £250.
Yes 24 month affair unless as said you want it for £250. I have the Huawei model and it’s okay but Three just offered me a free upgrade but no contract extension – not going to say no 🙂
What kind of speeds are you getting on your B535-232 ? I know someone that was thinking of getting one.
The crucial question is do they have a so-called “fair use policy” on that unlimited tariff? I’m thinking of EE with their fast 4G/5G router and a 600MB / month limit on their “unlimited” service. Go over that and they’ll throttle and / or put you on a more expensive tariff. That’s some redefinition of “unlimited” to the point where it’s useless.
I don’t believe they do Raptor, but then those FUP’s on EE also don’t seem to have been enforced. If they did enforce them then they might run into a conflict with the advertising watchdog (ASA), which has tended to clampdown on such things in the past.
It’s a soft cap until anyone can prove otherwise, same with Three, I’ve personally used over 1TB on both services and not had any issues, I suspect it’s like the FUP Be Broadband had, for use in exceptional scenarios.
You can also just get the business unlimited tariff for the same price, and then you get 1TB at a bare minimum iirc.
Thanks for the info, Mark.
Just one big game download can be over a gigabyte, so this limit is laughable.
They might not be enforcing it now, but I wouldn’t be comfortable committing to a long term contract with a clause like that in it. I’ll check out the Three terms and conditions.
I am shameful to admit I have hit 7TB in 1 month and they have said nothing – I used to do 5-6TB every month and they never said anything. Last month’s bill was around 5.8TB I think.
I can screenshot bills if you need proof. Just because it’s a bold claim but it’s true
Sorry 4.9TB last month I just checked. I am super grateful you can login just using the connection as I am rubbish with remembering passwords!
It’s not 600MB per month, it’s 600GB 🙂
Nothing shameful about getting your moneys worth, if they oversell the product that’s on them.
Thanks. I’ve got a business connection going in next week so I won’t be using it much – rather have 300mbps solid download speed than the up and down 5G gives me – I often have to do overnight downloads to get the speed – I thought that went out in 2005!
The fair use policy is it only delivers sub 10Mbps past 5pm! 🙂 Trust me, you aint gonna be downloading anything!
Mark said, “It’s not 600MB per month, it’s 600GB ”
You’re right, that’s a typo, my bad. 🙂
It’s not much though on a fast connection and can be chewed through in a couple of days with a bit of heavy downloading.
Three has NO FUP of any kind. Nor traffic management. And you can even get a real IP with no CGNAT. Have at it, people have downloaded Terrabytes on three without issue.
I have hit the 1.6gbps on speedtest.net. Not hit a fair use policy yet if there is one and I have 3 people with heavy usage using a Three router at home.
What’s the ping like/
I can only go on my own connection (sure he will reply later too) but I get 40-43m when going to a fast server 250 miles away in Cardiff.
I’ve just received this router today and it works perfectly, however as Mark mentioned there is a caveat compared to the Huawei 5G Hub CPE 2. When I logged into the router UI it shows maximum connections at 32, compared to the 64 you could have previously with Huawei. Seems odd that Three are now selling a ZTE 4G Hub that can handle (64) more connections that the premium ZTE 5G Hub.
The problem with 3 isn’t the headline speeds on 5G, it’s the reliability of service.
I’ve used 3’s 5G service for 18 months or so. Upload and download speeds are great, and as expected with near line of sight to the mast when using an outdoor router.
The issue is in the connectivity between 3’s network and the internet. It’s great that most of the time the downloads are 750Mbps, uploads are ~100Mbps and the pings are 2000 milliseconds. This happens at random times of the day so doesn’t seem to be related to usage on the network. It’s also not a router issue because I’ve had the same with two different 5G routers.
same with me I am expecting community fibre at my post code ( it is said few months) my contract already ended in November 2021 I am paying right now like pay as you go £ 30 per m Do you know, can – I swap my old device on new – and don’t take new contact as I want to switch to fibre – obviously
“my contract already ended in November 2021 I am paying right now like pay as you go £ 30 per m”
Nice – less than I pay actually in a contract!
Does that spiking still happen if you use 4G only?
Just wondering if it’s an 5G NSA issue.
No idea but I will put it into 4G later and use it for a few hours and let you know. Thanks for the tip (if referring to me)
Considering its got a RJ11 port does that mean you can receive and make calls if a regular landline phone is plugged in?
Are they supplying new routers to existing customers or do we need to request them? Still using the little B311 they supplied years ago to me… it works but it needs rebooted a bit too often imo.
I have noticed that with my Huawei unit. The connection will just stop and nothing will resolve – so I have to power cycle it – it’s probably recycled but I have only had it 9 months.
If I didn’t have FTTH I would totally go with this. I got over 900mbps on my phone the other day in a commercial park, https://www.speedtest.net/my-result/a/8143758202 and get a solid 700mbps at home on a monopole a few hundred metres away none LOS.
Can not beat BT’s latency though. Best I get via Three is 40ms to LINX Lon and around 8ms on BT. And that is stable on BT instead of all over the place on Three. But that is the benefit of a fiber optic connection Vs wireless…
If I was not bothered about latency then £15 a month for 700mbps+ beats £55 a month fixed line 2 year contract with BT…
My B535 hub is terrible. Just done a speed test and got 5mbps upload speed could’nt register. we can’t watch a film on Netflix or Prime without constant buffering,so dissapointed, sadly on a 2 year contract.
Sell the B535 on (theyre going for crazy high prizes on big auction site) and then buy a 5G router. (Depending if you get a good 5G signal that is)
32 connections isn’t many if you’ve started to build smart home products
That’s dreadful on a newly released product
Have a mast 100m from home and did a PAYG SIM check to my note20 and get over 1Gbps
Happy days placed an order
Take SIM Out the ZTE and put in my phone I get 700-1000mbps
Phone is in office on first floor she even with ZTE on the window facing the mast I only got 200Mbps once
Either I have a dodgy router or this is just terribly flaky, so think I’ll stay with FTTH
Tried using the three.co.uk APN on the router?
No change but thanks for the suggestion
I’ve cancelled my contract in 14 day cooling off. The ZTE router is duff.
Be careful if you think this will replace fixed line folks
I received my router today as a new subscriber, its a Huawei model H122-373. I take it that’s the older version?
When did you place the order? and when you placed the order was there a photo of the router? The ZTE only just became available on Three. If you want the ZTE 5G hub you can always cancel within the 14 day cooling off period & reorder.
Sunday. Yeah, will phone and get it swapped
See if you can get both side by side to test which one is better for you.
Ive read that Three Ireland offer the HUAWEI CPE PRO 3 model number: H138-380.
It wouldve been nice if ZTE offered this in a black/ dark grey colourway.
Probably an inventory issue since Huawei can no longer contract with TSMC for the production of the Balong 5000 modem that powered the CPE Pro router and the stocks ran out. That modem was getting long in the tooth anyhow. Although the Qualcomm X55 modem in the ZTE model is not exactly cutting edge either, it’s two generations old now.
Does this really not support WPA3 in 2022?
Got my 5G broadband delivered today and got the HUAWEI 5G CPE Pro 2. Is it worth returning this and getting the ZTE or are both about the same?
I need less than 32 devices by far.
Dont forget Z Manager 😉 to do it good 🙂
I’ve just cancelled my Homehub contract which was only set up 2 months ago ..absolute rubbish , frequent speeds of only 1 mbps download ….same with my three mobile contract which has been going for over a year ….To happen at the same time is just perfect !!!
Most of you seem impressed with the 3 5g service.
Their 4g service is appalling.
Do I go for a City Fibre 78mbps service at an effective £15.84 for an 18 month contract after cashback………..or this 3 5g service.
Haven’t checked to ascertain whether 3 5g is available in my postcode or whether there is cashback available from Quidco or Topcashback to reduce the effective monthly price for a 24 month contract.
The 4g service is/was appalling to the extent that I’m now cancelling all of the 3 broadband contracts. Last one terminates in April.
Am very dubious signing up to a long contract for their 5g service.
100mbps up and down would be more than adequate for my requirements.
It does seem that the more subscribers using the mast the slower the speed gets.
Weekends on 4g I’ve been reduced to .67kbps download and nothing upload……..clearly a high traffic area.
Most frustrating as buffering occurs.
I remain unconvinced as to the efficacy of 5g which I only reckon is currently achieving effective speeds due to not many subscribers using 5g.
I think I will go for the City Fibre/ Vodafone offer at £20/£15.84pcm for 18m after cashback card
If FTTP is available, why would you even consider 5G?
Before signing up to a two year contract I would test the signal in your area by using a £16/month “Smarty” SIM from uSwitch in a 5G phone. If there is no 5G signal you can cancel the Smarty SIM because it comes paid monthly You need to test it because the postcode checker tells me I am not in a 5G area. But I get 400 plus down and 70 plus up consistently. I use it as my main broadband. Also remember most of UK 5G is currently delivered in combination with 4G so you need a good 4G signal as well to get good 5G. Traditional wisdom says put the router by the window. That is good general advice but I have found that the strongest signals are found in the strangest parts of the house. It needs some experimentation. My preference is for the Huawei routers. They are a quality item. I am not sure about ZTE. It might be personal prejudice but I know what I am getting with Huawei. In common with others I have the occasional fallback to 4G situation but a two minute reset via the router log in page corrects that no problem. If you buy an unlocked Huawei CPE pro or CPE Pro 2 you can always put an unlimited Lebara or Lycamobile SIM in should your Smarty SIM not be up to it
Yeah Three 4G can be quite poor however I do find in areas they’ve also deployed 5G they’ve given the 4G one hell of a boost.
Until folks catch on and sign up, then the entire thing grinds to halt.
Mike – I don’t have FTTP at my house only ADSL which maxes out at 80-100mbps. My local 5G mast from 3 has massive backhaul as I constantly get over 1Gbps speeds from it and around 140Mbps upload.
If anyone wishes to try Smarty first to see what the three service is like in their area, feel free to use my referral link so you get a free second month.
I have both Smarty and a three account, and now that Smarty support 5G their service is identical to three.
As mentioned above, you can cancel Smarty at anytime as it’s a monthly service.
My referral link: https://i.smarty.co.uk/faS0xHx
Hope you get a good result.
Alternatively, don’t fund this guy and just go direct.
If anyone wants to test out if the signal is good, then I suggest ordering a FREE pay as you go SIM directly from the network.
Knowing the bull Three’s marketing team come out with, it probably is really them.
Hi all. Any news on whether an external antenna can be connected to this?
There’s quite a bit of info in the mobile broadband forums about this router Rob, but bear in mind this is a non 3 supplied router, but it’ll maybe still give you some sort of idea what to expect.
Hope that’s of some interest to you.
The router in that review seems to be from Amazon (although it looks like a German T-Mobile one?) but I guess there is no reason they would disable/remove the antenna ports.
Yes you can fit antanna into the back but only for 5g,.I’ve just had mine delivered today seems alot better than the Huawei Coe pro which was unreliable and couldn’t change config setting. This ZTE let me change apn if needed and select between 4g and 5g manual unlike the Cpe pro. been pretty stable even for gaming as I take my sons advice, he hasn’t been moaning at me so must be ok.
Hi Mathew, Does it give you an option to use it as modem only ( Bridge mode)? I know bridge mode was disabled on Huawei CPEs. Cheers
Yes you can all the seeing are available this time like the APN,DNS. My Huawei Cpe pro was locked couldn’t even select what network I wanted. Kept selecting 5g network even tho my upload was 0. And couldnt force it to 4g. At least ZTE can force 5g or 4g
Can the RJ11 port be unlocked?
Or is it even disabled?
I thought I would still prefer Huawei CPE Pro 2, but seems like the consensus of most reviews is the ZTE is better. But the 32 devices limit is a deal breaker for me because I have about 45 smarthome devices. In my personal experience, I do believe that Three is throttling the speed during peak hours in my area. Two obvious “assumptions” 1) the speed on VPN is much faster 2) the first 2 seconds of speed test it could go as high as, say, 100 Mbps then comes down substantially to just 10 Mbps thereon. Three’s 5g is not in my area yet, unfortunately.
My Three ZTE MC801a 5G Router arrived yesterday and I suspect it will be going back tomorrow! Speeds are 200+ d/l and 45 u/l. However a couple of speedtests put the u/l at 0.5 The problem I am having is best described as trying to access UK geofenced apps from abroad. I can’t access any of the UK TV Channels, BBC IPlayer, ITV Hub, 4, My 5, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video either through my Smart tv or through my preferred choice, Amazon 4k Max Firestick. Speaking to 3’s support was a complete waste of time as they blamed the Firestick and the Smart TV Perhaps someone here will have a solution for a non techhie!
Has anyone tried linking this new ZTE router to a Reolink CCTV NVR system? I’m struggling to get my TPLink 4G router to connect to it.
Mine lasted three days, I couldn’t access twitter, YouTube, a lot of websites, email when using the router. Upload speed showed zero, even though it could upload. My phone 5g worked fine. Three technical support was useless they blamed my phone.
Hi, symptoms exactly the same as mine. Same replys from call centre staff!
They all said to return under the 14 day warranty
The workaround was to put a VPN on it, but that is ideal and throttles speed
The solution for getting it to work properly was to change sim cards to a Smarty one, with d/l speeds of 300+Mbs and upload of 51Mbs
So, unless 3 can resolve this, I’ll return it and buy a Router and use Smarty – they currently have an offer of unlimited data for £16 month
Smarty are owned by 3, so ridiculous if they can’t resolve the issues!
So I’ve had my three zte 5g router for 7 days now and when it works its great but been having problems lately, I was getting download speeds of 400+mbps for 2 days then suddenly it went down to 20 with 0 for uploads, couldn’t access any websites. Stayed like that for day and a half, spent hour on the phone to three with no real help, just told to reboot the router loads of times and maybe cos I’m on the edge of 5g coverage maybe the signal isn’t strong enough, surely id never get speeds of 400+ if that was the case? Speeds went back up after reboot but then went back down to 20. About an hour after getting off to phone to them the speeds went back up to 400+ stayed like that for 2 days then today its just gone again, down to 20 with no upload speed. Rebooted router, removed and replaced sim, seemed to fix it briefly but then back down to 20. All the lights are solid white on the front. When it’s working I do have it connected to my netgear orbi mesh router which I thought might be the problem but it’s still the same when I just connect straight to the zte router. Even with only my phone connected to the zte its still only getting 20mbps Anyone got any suggestions before I give three a call again? Thank you for any help
Hey I’ve received my ZTE router worked great first 2 days I even posted comments on here. Well gone downhill from there. Just had to take out a new contract but go to store and pick up the Huawei Cpe pro 2. Miles better in my opinion.seem really un reliable maybe the x55 modem isn’t as good as the Huawei not sure. Level 2njust sent me new ZTE router and seem ok but the other was for few days. I’m getting 350 download but 0 upload. Only paying 21 a month might just keep both or send the ZTE back as I have another 14days.
I would definitely take out a new contract in-store but make sure they have the Cpe pro 2 in stock. Then cancel the ZTE within your 14 days.
I had similar problems and changed the sim card to a Smarty one (3 own Smarty)
Everything runs perfectly now, so unless 3 can resolve this then I’ll return it, buy my own router and use the Smarty sim – currently on offer for £16 month unlimited
I’ve got the three 4g router too and that works fine, 5g wasn’t available in my area when I got 4g but then it became available so thought I’d give both a try, i had the 4g router just connected to my pc and used the 5g for everything else but I’ve had to put the 4g router back as the main router cos 5g keeps going down. When I connect my Galaxy s21 5g to the 5g router it days the connection speeds to the phone is 1.1gbps but only get 20mbps on a speed test. Just don’t understand what’s going wrong, could it be a faulty 5g router or is their 5g network just rubbish…
You tried using the three.co.uk APN for mobile network on your router. Could solve the problem for you. As the routers use 3internet APN as standard.
I’ve noticed it says 3internet. How would I go about changing it to three.co.uk?
Managed to change it to three.co.uk and its all up and running, gonna leave it with just my phone connected to It till tomorrow then try connect it back to my orbi mesh router and see how it goes
How did you get on pal you find the router okay. I find it keeps disconnecting and needs resetting everyday or everything just buffers.
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