3G switch off

3G Switch off – What is it and is it time for 4G/5G?


Is 3G network about to end? Is it necessary for us to switch to a 4G-supported device? Well, the bigger question in mind is: What does 3G switch-off mean for most of us?

By now you might be aware that the technology behind the third generation (3G) of mobile network services is slowly being switched off across the UK. This is a result of an agreement between Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and the government back in 2023 where they officially agreed to end 2G and 3G services to be phased out by 2033.

Within the allotted time, the providers are free to decide when they want to stop offering 2G and 3G services. The coming generation might not be even able to know about this mobile network terminology.

Early in the 1990s, second-generation technology was introduced, and in 2003, third-generation technology was released.

Although 5G technology has received a lot of attention, many regions have yet to get the network support necessary for people to use it.

Here is all the information you require regarding the 3G switch-off and what you need to do.

The Rise of 3G

When third-generation (3G) mobile technology was released in the United Kingdom in the early 2000s, it was a game changer. In comparison to its predecessor, 2G, 3G provided higher data speeds and increased multimedia capabilities, laying the groundwork for a mobile revolution. For the first time, users could easily browse the internet, send multimedia messages, and access a variety of mobile applications.

The Shift to 4G and Beyond

The advent of 4G brought even greater advancements to mobile communications. With significantly faster data transfer rates, 4G enabled seamless video streaming, video conferencing, and the widespread adoption of mobile apps that required higher bandwidth. As 4G networks became more widespread and accessible, the demand for 3G gradually started to decline.

The Decline of 3G

In recent years, the growth of 4G and the subsequent deployment of 5G technology significantly overshadowed 3G’s capabilities. The superior speed and capacity of these newer networks made 3G networks appear increasingly outdated. As a result, major mobile network operators in the UK started planning for the gradual shutdown of 3G services to reallocate resources to more advanced technologies.

What is 3G Switch OFF?

The term “3G Switch OFF” describes the process of phased-out and ending the 3G mobile network technology in a certain nation or region. In the UK, this entails the deactivation and shutdown of the 3G network.

Mobile network providers often reallocate the frequency bands formerly utilized for 3G to newer and faster network technologies, such as 4G and 5G, when a network switch-off occurs. For customers with compatible devices, this allows better network functionality, expanded capacity, and improved data speeds.

Users are encouraged to replace their outdated gadgets with ones that are compatible with more cutting-edge technologies by turning off the 3G network. Additionally, it aids in spectrum resource optimization for upcoming network growth and technological improvements.

Benefits of 3G Switch Off

a. Spectrum Efficiency

One of the primary benefits of turning off 3G is the efficient use of the radio spectrum. With 3G services being phased out, the spectrum can be repurposed for 4G and 5G networks, giving consumers improved coverage and higher speeds.

b. Improved User Experience

As 3G services are decommissioned, consumers will transition to faster networks, resulting in a better overall mobile experience. Streaming high-definition videos and using demanding mobile applications will become more fluid and seamless.

c. Infrastructure Optimisation

Decommissioning 3G equipment enables mobile operators to optimize their infrastructure, lowering maintenance costs and streamlining future networks.

Why are Mobile Network Operators switching off 3G?

Simply said, it makes room for faster networks like 4G and 5G. Mobile companies have slowly started to phase down 3G networks across the nation to allow faster networks to work more efficiently.

Providing customers with better, quicker, and more dependable services is the goal of fourth and fifth-generation technologies.

when will 3G switch off

Vodafone 3G switch off

Vodafone, which has over 18 million users as of right now, has announced that it will turn off 3G in the UK this year so that it can concentrate on spending more on its 4G and 5G networks.

The mobile network stated it will continue its nationwide shutdown throughout this year and has already turned off its 3G network in Plymouth and Basingstoke.

In June, the network will also turn off 3G service in Hull, Oxford, and Greater London.

It will first turn off the network in the South of England before moving on to the rest of the UK later this year.

EE 3G switch off

Even though EE intends to “say goodbye” to 3G in 2024, it has not yet been discontinued.

The business declared that it intends to concentrate on bolstering the “more reliable” 4G and 5G networks.

“The 3G network is not energy efficient, and its removal will herald a more sustainable future,” the statement continued.

The network operator has guaranteed clients that they will assist anyone who requires assistance switching from 3G to 4G or 5G throughout the course of the upcoming year.

EE has provided users with a simpler way to keep track of the most recent coverage and network status on its website.

Three 3G switch off

Over the next two years, Three will gradually discontinue its 3G network services with the goal of doing so by 2024.

Customers will be connected to the 4G and 5G networks in the UK.

So, if you haven’t already, this is the ideal moment to think about switching to a smartphone that supports 4G Internet and 4G calling (also known as VoLTE), the message stated. We will support you at every turn.

The network coverage checker now allows users to determine whether 4G or 5G coverage is available in their neighborhood.

These are the UK’s top four mobile network operators. All other mobile service providers use these networks to deliver their services.

Virgin Media o2 3G Switch off

The scheduled date for O2’s 3G switch-off has not yet been disclosed, according to a report from Ofcom.

As a result, 3G service for this network will be accessible until the network announces specifics regarding its switch-off.

To see what technologies are offered in your area, keep up to date with the network’s coverage checker.

Interesting read: 5G vs 4G vs LTE – What’s the Difference Between the Network Generations?

What is the expected Timeline for the switch-off of 2G and 3G?

All the operators have agreed to switch off 2G and 3G by 2033.

Mobile Network 3G 2G
EE 2024 Before 2030
Three 2024 Not Applicable*
Virgin Media O2 No plans announced No plans announced
Vodafone 2023 No plans announced

*Three UK never had a 2G network as it launched as a 3G network.

Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) such as Talk Home Mobile, giffgaff, and Smarty, operate under the network coverage provided by the big four. Therefore, they will mimic the schedule set up by their parent company.

Is 3G Switch-off happening in other parts of the world?

Yes, it is. Mobile network operators inculcate the latest trends in mobile technology. On the verge of providing users with fast data, such events are also happening in other parts of the world. For instance, all 3G networks have been switched off in the United States of America.

Furthermore, Vodafone has already retired 3G in Germany and Italy.

How will 3G Switch off affect me?

You might not be able to make phone calls, send text messages, or upload data in locations where your phone has been turned off if you have an older phone that is only compatible with 2G or 3G networks and not the more recent ones.

Speak with your network provider if you are unsure what to do or are worried about it to find out your best course of action.

According to Ofcom, customers using EE, Vodafone, and O2 networks on older devices can continue to use 2G until it shuts down to make voice calls and send texts even after the 3G switch-off.

Many mobile users won’t likely be impacted, though, given how widely used 4G devices are currently. Furthermore, according to Ofcom, networks must give users up to 12 months’ notice before turning off 3G.

Things to do Before 3G Shuts Down in the Uk

Customers of Three, which do not operate a 2G network, have been encouraged to switch to a 4G or 5G-capable smartphone.

Customers with older phones would need to upgrade to 4G or 5G-equipped models to maintain access to their [Network] services and emergency services, according to Ofcom.

So, if you currently own an outdated phone, you must replace it.

For instance, 4G networks are supported by smartphones like the iPhone 5C or 5S and higher.

Here’s how to determine whether an iPhone has 4G capability:

  • Navigate to your phone’s settings.
  • Go to your settings page’s “mobile data section.”
  • “Mobile Data Options” should be chosen.
  • Next, choose “voice & data.”
  • Your screen should display the available network options for your device.

Country-Wide 3G Switch-Off

To free up the radio frequencies they utilize for slower network services, the government aims to shut down the 2G and 3G networks by 2033.

In response, Vodafone started phasing off its 3G service in Basingstoke and Plymouth in February. It now intends to gradually phase out the rest of its UK 3G network starting in June.

The rest of the South will come after Hull, Oxford, and Greater London. Later in the year, the rest of the nation will follow.

Moreover, according to Vodafone, the move will enable it to provide its 18 million UK customers with quicker internet speeds and better call quality.

The Bleak Picture of Connectivity in the UK

Thousands of people still cannot connect. A report by Ofcom estimates that over 30,000 UK homes cannot get decent 4G mobile service in the UK. These figures lament the fact that even mobile network operators have a long way to go.

Today companies are focusing primarily on making the current 4G and 5G technology readily available even in remote areas. Therefore, today they are not only focusing on giving users are network better than 5G but also making the current network available to the maximum number of people.

The Future of 5G and Beyond

The deactivation of 3G signals an important milestone in the UK’s telecoms environment, but it is merely the beginning of the country’s journey towards greater connectedness. 5G service deployment is already begun, promising not only faster speeds but also lower latency and the ability to handle a large ecosystem of Internet of Things (IoT) devices.


The deactivation of 3G in the United Kingdom represents the unavoidable evolution of technology. As we say goodbye to 3G, we look forward to a future of improved mobile experiences, quicker speeds, and greater connectivity.

The shift to more modern networks such as 4G and 5G demonstrates the UK’s commitment to remaining at the forefront of telecoms innovation. As we move forward, it is critical that we remain adaptable. In short, we need open to new technologies. It will help us underhow how we communicate and engage with the world around us.


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