As you may already be aware, the UK government has agreed with UK mobile network operators that by 2033, all 2G and 3G networks in the UK will be switched off. This is because 2G and 3G networks are considered “legacy” technology, and are no longer compatible with emerging technologies such as Open RAN, meaning that they will eventually become redundant. While the official deadline is 2033, many mobile network operators, including Vodafone and EE, have announced that they will be closing their networks well ahead of this date, many as early as 2023. They have also committed to significant investment in the 4G/5G networks to provide reliable and widespread connectivity.

What does this mean for you?

Probably not a lot, noticeably anyway. As 2G and 3G networks are phased out, they will be replaced by upgrades to 4G/5G networks, if they aren’t already available in your area. Devices which run on these networks such as your mobile phones, will automatically make the switch to the new service in an area. You may notice improved speeds and connectivity, but you shouldn’t typically notice any reduction in service or loss of connection. 4G and 5G are up to 10x faster than 3G; they also have lower latency (delay in connection), use modern encryption, and support multitasking.

Some devices may need an upgrade

Assuming you have a 4G or 5G enabled device, anything that happens will be automatic. However, there are a number of older devices, or devices that are on specific voice and data plans, where the switch might not be automatic. For example:

  • devices must be a 4G VoLTE capable device
  • some mobile VPN services may need reviewing
  • some technology may require an upgrade by the manufacturer such as household smart meters which run on 2G.

If your device falls into one of these categories, you will be contacted by your network provider to talk about any upgrades that are required.

If you have any specific questions about your network and connectivity, or your mobile voice and data tariffs, please speak to the team on 01453 700 800.

Update 25 November 2022:

Although this is a national initiative, different mobile providers are committed to the phase out at different times.

  • Vodafone is starting its switch-off in early 2023
  • EE plans to start its switch-off in early 2024
  • Three expects to switch-off by the end of 2024
  • O2 is starting its switch-off by the end of 2023

It has also been highlighted that during the transition period, when some 3G networks have been switched off, but before the 5G rollout is complete, there will naturally be an increase in the amount of traffic being processed by the 4G network. This could mean more congestion at peak times, leading to slower speeds or potentially load interruption.