BT and EE are to sunset its 3G network, with the switch off starting in January 2024, after operating for over two decades
The United Kingdom began constructing and installing its 3G networks back in 2001. But now another major UK operator has signalled it will switch off its nationwide 3G network.
BT Group, the owner of the EE mobile division, announced it will commence a nationwide 3G switch off in January 2024 and plans to complete the process by March 2024.
The switch off comes after BT in July 2021 said it would phase out its 3G network in the UK by 2023 for EE, Plusnet, and BT Mobile users. At the time it pledged to make 5G connectivity available in 90 percent of the UK by 2028.
3G switch off
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.
But now BT and EE have confirmed their 3G switch off will begin in early 2024 and will last just three months.
“When we launched our 3G network in the UK in the early 2000s, the world was a different place,” said BT. “Back then, the first iPhone had not launched, there was no WhatsApp or Facebook, and 3G was the most reliable mobile technology available. Fast forward twenty years and things have moved on.”
BT said that its 3G pilot in Warrington this summer saw the town in the north west England become the first place in the UK where EE’s 3G network was switched off.
“It was a significant milestone in our journey to enhance Britain’s mobile infrastructure and helped inform the approach for our nationwide retirement of 3G,” the operator stated.
BT said that “smooth switch off in Warrington” saw no customer complaints about network coverage or performance. It also noted there were also no capacity issues on either of its 2G or 4G networks, despite a natural rise in traffic as more people relied on them every day.
The operator noted that the 3G network represented around 35 percent of EE mobile network’s total power consumption – massively outweighing its usage which is falling all the time.
Retiring the technology is therefore one of the best steps BT can take to reduce its carbon footprint.
More modern networks like 4G and 5G are not only faster, but also up to ten times more efficient, the operator pointed out.
As part of this 3G switch off, the operator promised that all customers registered as vulnerable will be offered a free 4G-ready mobile phone, or a discount on a monthly plan if they prefer to choose their own handset, to ensure vulnerable customers are not left behind.
More information about BT and EE’s 3G switch off can be found here.