BT Completes 3G Switch-Off, With Belfast Site Closure

BT Group and its EE mobile division have freed up spectrum with the switch off of its final 3G mobile site.

BT announced that it has now closed the final 3G mobile site in Belfast, Northern Ireland, “bringing an end to the use of the technology in our EE mobile network after more than 20 years.”

The switch off came after BT in July 2021 said it would phase out its 3G network in the UK for EE, Plusnet, and BT Mobile users.

3G switch off

BT closed its 3G site in Warrington in the summer of 2023 – marking the north west England town as the first place in the UK where EE’s 3G network had been switched off.

But now the final 3G location in the United Kingdom, in Belfast, has been switched off.

“It was a landmark moment as we continue our work to upgrade Britain’s connectivity infrastructure,” said BT. “But more importantly, it is a significant milestone for communities across the UK who are now embracing the benefits provided by modern mobile technologies like 4G and 5G.”

BT said that since 2023 it has been phasing out customer reliance on 3G and the completion of the detailed pilot switch off in Warrington, had allowed it “confidently start the nationwide 3G switch off as planned in early January.”

Since January 2024 BT said it has been methodically retiring the technology across more than 18,000 mobile sites, with dedicated pauses built into the process so it could closely monitor each region in real-time.

BT Confirms 3G Network Switch Off Will Begin January 2024

“We have now successfully completed the nationwide closure of our 3G network, resulting in big improvements for both our customers and the environment,” said the UK telecoms giant.

BT said that those 3G customers who have transitioned to its 4G and 5G networks are now enjoying more reliable and widespread mobile coverage with faster mobile internet speeds.

BT also pointed out that switching off 3G has already saved enough energy to charge nearly one billion smartphones.

“We will continue to monitor the performance of our other mobile technologies (2G, 4G and 5G) to ensure EE customers continue to get the high-quality connectivity experience they need from the UK’s most reliable mobile network,” the carrier stated.

Other operators

BT and EE are not alone in switch off legacy networks.

In January 2022 Vodafone said it would begin the retirement of its 3G network in 2023.

Prior to that the government had announced that the UK’s second generation (2G) and third generation (3G) mobile networks would be switched off in 2033, in order to bolster the UK’s mobile security, and encourage operators to deliver 5G networks.

Last week BT confirmed that the iconic BT Tower in central London was to be sold for £275m to MCR Hotels, “who plan to preserve BT Tower as an iconic hotel, securing its place as a London landmark for the future.”

BT Tower
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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