Vodafone has announced plans to begin shuttering its 3G network in 2023 to focus on improving 4G/5G services.
The operator says that less than 4 percent of data traffic across its network is now delivered via 3G—compared to over 30 percent in 2016. By the end of this year, the amount of 3G traffic is likely to have dwindled even further.
With the vast amount of traffic carried over 4G – and increasingly 5G – it makes sense for Vodafone to improve those services.
Vodafone says that it will repurpose the spectrum currently used for 3G to expand and strengthen its 4G and 5G services to ensure that customers across more parts of the UK can access the faster, more reliable connectivity of newer-generation networks.
Ahmed Essam, CEO of Vodafone, said:
“We’re building the UK’s most reliable mobile network and focusing on the technologies that best connect our customers and have the least impact on the environment.
3G has connected so many customers over the last 17 years, but the future is 4G and 5G.
Vodafone has committed to reaching net-zero by 2027 and says that shuttering its 3G network will be a step towards that goal. 5G networks are more than ten times as energy-efficient as 3G equipment.
“We’re going to be focused on giving customers a faster and more reliable mobile experience and minimising our impact on the environment by taking away a layer of our network that uses inefficient equipment,” added Essam.
While most customers are now using 4G-capable devices, Vodafone is launching a campaign throughout 2022 to ensure that no-one gets left behind. The campaign will call on tech-savvy customers to check on friends and family while also partnering with third parties such as The Good Things Foundation to reach the most vulnerable.
Helen Milner OBE, Group Chief Executive at Good Things Foundation, commented:
“We support Vodafone with this important campaign to ensure that every consumer can stay connected during the change. Access to a digital connection is vital, especially for the most vulnerable people in our society.
With the move away from 3G, people risk being disconnected, locked out and left behind. That’s why we’re so pleased to be working with Vodafone to ensure as many people as possible continue to have the essential digital access they need.”
The 3G network has had a good run—having been operational for 17 years and carrying almost 500 billion minutes of calls.
Vodafone UK will use the wider group’s experience in retiring 3G networks in countries such as Germany and Italy to ensure that it’s a smooth transition.
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