EE and Vodafone Shut Down 3G Networks

Switch-off will also reduce the operators’ costs and significantly cut power consumption on their network.

EE and Vodafone have completed the shutdown of their 3G networks, freeing up 3G’s radio spectrum frequencies so that it can be re-farmed to further improve the network coverage and mobile broadband speeds of more modern 4G and 5G based networks.

The UK’s mobile operators (EE, O2, Vodafone and Three UK) are currently in the process of phasing out their old 3G services, with 2G services expected to follow by 2033 at the latest.

The switch-off will also reduce the operators’ costs and significantly cut power consumption on their network.

In total BT have shut down 18,000 3G sites since January, with BT closely monitoring the process to ensure a smooth sundown.

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Greg McCall, BT’s Chief Networks Officer, said:

“Having spent 2023 phasing out customer reliance on 3G and completing a detailed pilot switch off in Warrington, we were able to confidently start the nationwide 3G switch off as planned in early January.

Since then, we have been responsibly and methodically retiring the technology across more than 18,000 mobile sites, with dedicated pauses built into the process so we could closely monitor each region in real-time.

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

Those 3G customers who have transitioned to our 4G and 5G networks are now enjoying more reliable and widespread mobile coverage with faster mobile internet speeds, while 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.”

Meanwhile Vodafone also “completed their shutdown, albeit with a small caveat.

A “small number of locations” (Vodafone don’t state how many) with UK security significance, as well as a handful of remote rural areas, will remain switched-on for a short period of time after the main national switch off. 

Vodafone’s UK Network Director, Andrea Dona, said:

“The 3G legacy switch off has been a massive programme and I’d like to thank my team for their hard work to make this a success.

With switch off complete, we can start to redeploy the remaining spectrum which will ultimately lead to stronger and faster 4G and 5G across the UK. All on top of our existing 4G and 5G network improvement programmes. Good news for our customers, businesses and the wider UK economy.”