In 2021, the UK government reached an agreement with mobile network operators Vodafone, EE, O2, and Three for the phase-out of 3G and 2G mobile services by 2033.
- The service termination timeline is flexible, allowing each provider to decide when to cease these services within the given period.
Provider-specific Shutdown Schedules
- Vodafone: Began testing its 3G switch-off in February 2023 with plans to switch off across the UK from June 2023. The 2G network remains active for calls and texts. Further information can be found on Vodafone’s website.
- EE: Plans to phase out 3G services throughout 2023, with complete shutdown in early 2024. The 2G services will follow later in the decade. More details on EE’s website.
- Three: Targets to discontinue its 3G services by the end of 2024. Being the UK’s first 100% 3G network, it never had a 2G network. Additional details on Three’s website.
- O2: Has not disclosed specific plans for the closure of its 3G and 2G services. By 2025, it seems O2 will be the only provider still offering 3G services.
Virtual networks like Giffgaff, Tesco Mobile, and Smarty will discontinue their 3G services in alignment with their parent network’s timeline.
Reasons for 3G Networks Closure
- Increased 5G Usage: 5G handset usage saw a fourfold increase in 2021. Three has purchased the most spectrum for 5G and plans to enhance the 5G user experience with a £2 billion investment.
- Limited Spectrum: Due to increased demand, some changes were necessary, given the limited availability of spectrum.
- Cost Considerations: The increased cost of operating dual networks (2G/3G and 4G/5G) encourages providers to phase out 2G and 3G. The savings can be reinvested in the 4G and 5G network infrastructure.
- Device Upgrades: As the market is flooded with faster 4G and 5G devices, the usage of 3G-only handsets is expected to drop further.
Upgrading 3G Routers to 4G Routers
With the ongoing phase-out of 3G networks, users with 3G routers will need to consider upgrading to 4G routers. The upgrade process is generally straightforward and offers several benefits:
- Faster Internet Speed: 4G routers provide much faster internet speeds compared to their 3G counterparts. This allows for quicker downloads, seamless streaming, and improved online gaming experiences.
- Improved Connectivity: 4G networks provide superior connectivity, ensuring more reliable and stable internet access.
- Better Coverage: As mobile operators focus on enhancing their 4G networks, users can enjoy better coverage even in remote areas.
Before purchasing a 4G router, users should check the compatibility with their network provider and consider their specific internet needs. This ensures the chosen router can handle their data usage and provides the required connection speed.