The Decline of 3G and Shift to Advanced Networks

EE, one of the UK’s leading mobile operators, has announced a definitive timeline for its nationwide 3G switch-off. Starting in January 2024, the process is slated for completion by March of the same year. This move comes as 3G usage on EE’s network has fallen to a record low, with a significant shift of users towards more advanced 4G and 5G networks.

Successful Trials Leading to the Shutdown

The decision follows successful trials in Warrington, Cheshire, where EE found that less than 5% of customers were using 3G data. This trial marked the beginning of the transition away from the older technology.

Reallocating Spectrum for Enhanced Connectivity

The shutdown of the 3G network will allow EE to repurpose the freed-up spectrum to enhance the coverage and speed of its 4G and 5G networks. Currently, 3G constitutes only 0.6% of all UK data downloaded on EE’s network and 7% of voice traffic, a significant decrease from January 2020.

Environmental and Efficiency Benefits

Greg McCall, EE’s Chief Networks Officer, highlighted the environmental and operational efficiency benefits of retiring 3G technology. He noted that 3G accounts for around 35% of the mobile network’s total power consumption, a figure disproportionate to its dwindling usage. Transitioning fully to 4G and 5G, which are up to ten times more efficient, is expected to significantly reduce the company’s carbon footprint. The energy savings from this switch-off are estimated to be equivalent to the amount needed to fully charge up to four billion smartphones.

A Nationwide Effort to Phase Out Older Networks

This move by EE aligns with the UK government’s guidance. All UK mobile operators have committed to phasing out their 2G and 3G networks by 2033 at the latest, marking a shift towards more modern, efficient, and environmentally friendly telecommunications infrastructure.