BT Confirms 3G Service Will Be ‘Retired’ In 2023

BT has provided an update of its 5G network rollout in the United Kingdom and confirmed a number of elements concerning its 4G and 3G networks as well.

In its announcement, BT said that its mobile operator (EE) will be able to offer 5G connectivity ‘anywhere’ in the UK by 2028.

BT said that this ambition is “supported by 4,500 sq miles of new rural EE coverage paired with additional road, air and space solutions to offer high speed connectivity on the go.”

3G retirement

Buried among BT’s announcement is the news that the carrier intends to retire its legacy 3G network in 2023.

To give readers a reminder of how legacy 3G actually is as a technology, lets quickly remember the various spectrum auctions held over the past two decades.

3G capabilities began to arrive in the UK in March and April 2000, when the Government found itself benefiting from a whooping £22.5bn from its 3G spectrum auction (it had only expected to gain £5bn for its 3G spectrum auction).

The auction of spectrum for 4G services in the UK was supposed to be held in 2011, but operator disputes delayed it, and the 4G auction was eventually held in 2013 and only raised £2.3bn.

And finally the UK’s 5G auction was held in 2018 and only raised £1.4 billion for Treasury coffers.

“As part of efforts to ensure all customers can benefit from the most reliable connections 3G services will also be retired, with customers across BT brands phased off 3G by 2023,” said the carrier this week.

“3G usage has been in steady decline, now representing less than 2 percent of data traffic over the EE network, and the spectrum will be used to enhance 5G capacity in the future,” it added.

Rural coverage

BT also opened up about its efforts in extending mobile coverage across the entire UK, especially in so called rural notspots.

EE will have added over 4,500 square miles of new signal by 2025, equivalent to more than 1.5m Wembley pitches, it said.

Last month the government provided an update for the £1 billion Shared Rural Network, and EE was keen to point out its progress in the scheme and said it had upgraded 334 areas.

5G ambition

And BT revealed its 5G ambitions, saying its 5G network will grow to cover half of the UK population by early 2023, four years ahead of the UK Government’s ambition.

And it then pledged to “fuse” its mobile, Wi-Fi and fibre broadband infrastructures to realise the potential of the country’s “first fully converged network.”

“Utilising the expanded 4G infrastructure, 5G will pass the geographic reach of 4G to become the UK’s largest digital network by 2028, providing signal to over 90 percent of UK landmass,” it said.

As part of this fusing of technologies, BT pointed to its announcement earlier this month when OneWeb and BT signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), to explore the provision of improved digital communication services to some of the hardest to reach parts of the UK.

“Over the past 18 months we’ve helped the UK to meet the demands of a pandemic,” said Philip Jansen, chief executive of BT Group. “We must now look ahead to deliver the strongest foundations to drive future growth.”

“We’re making a uniquely ambitious, long-term commitment to drive high performance 5G further and faster, and to integrate it at the core with our fibre network for a seamless customer experience,” said Jansen. “Openreach was first to fibre, EE was first to 5G and together BT will be first to a fully converged future.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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