Say goodbye to 3G

Mobile operators across the UK have announced plans to retire the 2G and 3G networks by 2033 in favour of 4G and 5G. With 3G consuming more energy than its modern counterparts, the decision to close the network comes at a time when energy efficiency and sustainability is a prime concern.

Why is the 3G network being retired?

5G is ten times more energy efficient than 3G – on O2 for example, 3G accounts for less than 4% of data but 11% of the total energy consumption. Refocusing efforts on upgrading to the newer networks will allow for faster, more reliable services.

When will the 3G network be switched off?

Some operators have already started their switch-off programmes, with others scheduled for the next 2 years. The proposed schedule for the main mobile networks are as follows:

Vodafone – starting in 2023 and planning to be completed by early 2024

EE – early 2024, starting in January

Three – by the end of 2024

Virgin Media O2 – 2025

This is also happening in other countries across the world – for example, the 3G network has already been switched off in the US.

What will the impact be?

While 3G usage has dropped significantly in the last few years, and most mobile users are unlikely to be affected, devices such as care alarms, ATMs and card machines which rely on older networks will need to be upgraded. Older people and those in rural areas are also likely to be impacted however operators are working to ensure a 4G signal will be in place in time for the switch-off to ensure there’s no loss of coverage.

Each operator has its own process for completing the switch-off which includes providing support to those who need to upgrade. Mobile providers will contact their customers to let them know if they will be affected and what steps they will need to take. In most cases, this will involve upgrading their device to one that has the capacity for 4G or 5G. Some 4G devices might need a software update to ensure calls are using the right network. The main disruption will come with accessing data services, wi-fi connectivity will continue to work on older devices but not mobile data.

For those unsure, we would recommend speaking to your provider.

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