Mobile operator Three UK has today become the latest provider to announce that it aims to completely switch off its legacy 3G (mobile broadband) network by the end of 2024.
The move will free up resources to allow Three to focus on improving the 4G experience and rolling out 5G to more parts of the UK.
The expected move is particularly poignant for Three UK – a network that launched in 2003 by positioning itself as the UK’s first 3G-only operator. However, today 3G has long since been superseded by superior 4G services and more recently by the latest generation of gigabit-capable 5G networks.
The announcement follows last year’s agreement between the government and mobile operators, which saw Vodafone, EE (BT), O2 (VMO2) and Three UK agree a national plan to phase out all existing 2G and 3G services by 2033. The associated spectrum will be repurposed back for use to enhance modern 4G and 5G services.
“I welcome the news that Three is switching off its 3G network by the end of 2024. This is a good idea as it will free up the spectrum for more advanced uses, be that people or machines. The ‘older’ networks like 2G and 3G are more to do with machines than people talking.
“For example, many of the old EPOS terminals in retail and restaurants used 2G as their way to connect to the card issuer like Visa and MasterCard. There are other machine-to-machine uses out there that also have very old 2G or 3G SIM cards inside. So, the inconvenience is more for these installed bases of devices rather than your elderly relatives not being able to use their phones.
“For machine to machine and IoT applications we now have 5G, which has been purposefully designed to handle very large numbers of devices, even if each device itself only transmits small amounts of data – such as retail card transactions – or very large amounts of data such as CCTV. 5G will be an enabler of innovation and freeing up spectrum will be key to moving forwards with 5G roll-out adoption.”