Three UKs to switch off 3G networks in two years

Part of an initiative to free up resources to enable the operator to focus on improving the 4G experience and rolling out 5G as part of a £2bn+ commitment sterling in the UK, Three UK has announced that the UK’s first 3G network will be shut down. end of 2024.

In December 2021 the UK government and the main UK mobile network operators (MNOs) – Vodafone, EE, Virgin Media O2 and Three – agreed 2033 as the date when all public 2G and 3G networks in the UK will be switched off .

The law aims to free up the amount of spectrum required to enable the mass deployment of 5G and other future networks such as 6G, which the UK government sees as the basis for use cases such as autonomous vehicles and drones. , immersive virtual and augmented reality experiences, as well as technological innovations to achieve net zero emissions and improve healthcare.

The UK government believes that a current hurdle for new providers entering the UK 5G market is that they must, as things stand, offer 2G or 3G services as they are required by all four mobile operators nationals.

Currently, Three UK’s network covers 99% of the UK’s outside population with its combined 3G and 4G network, and carries 28% of mobile data traffic in the country. Yet the company also revealed that data demand is constantly increasing – average data usage per customer per month is now 19GB in December 2021, up 20% year-over-year (YoY ) – there is a need to continue investing in new, faster and more efficient technologies.

The operator said the announcement represents a milestone in UK mobile technology, with the target date just over two decades after Three UK launched 3G in the UK on 3/3/03, the network being commissioned later that month. Additionally, the company said the ability to switch off its 3G network has been made possible by significant investments in 4G and 5G in recent years, including the acquisition of the UK’s largest 5G spectrum portfolio.

Basically, Three UK believes that turning off its 3G network will allow it to focus its investments and spectrum resources on improving the 4G customer experience, while rolling out 5G, while continuing to build what it calls a “great network for the UK”.

In explaining its decision, Three UK pointed to the recent research paper, Mobile Great Britain 2022, in which he reported that 5G usage has already overtaken 3G, with the number of 5G devices on Three UK’s network quadrupling. He also noted that 5G shows no signs of slowing down, with Three predicting that 5G will account for 35% of data usage by the end of 2022.

Three expects the number of customers using only 3G handsets to continue to decline as faster 4G and 5G devices are introduced to the market. When customers upgrade their handsets, they will be able to take advantage of the UK’s fastest 5G network, as recognized by research firm Ookla.

All 4G voice calling devices supplied by Three since mid-2018 are VoLTE-enabled and ready for the future of Three’s network, as well as all 4G data-only devices. As the 3G switch-off date approaches, if a customer has an older 3G-only device or a non-VoLTE voice device, Three UK said it will work with its customers to ensure they stay connected.

“3G launched the mobile revolution – and launched Three in the UK 20 years ago – but the future is undoubtedly 5G. As we continue to roll out our super-fast connectivity, not only upgrading our existing 4G sites, but by building new 5G sites we will be able to switch off our use of 3G on our network by the end of 2024,” said Three UK Chief Technology Officer David Hennessy .

“As the leader in 5G deployment and Ookla’s fastest network, we are focused on delivering on our goal of delivering better connectivity, every day, for every customer.”


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