Switching off the UK’s 3G mobile networks: what you need to know

The 3G mobile networks are gradually being switched off over the next few years. Here’s what this means for you as a customer.

The UK’s mobile services currently use four different ‘generations’ of mobile technology: 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G. The 3G networks have been around since 2003 and are used to deliver calls, texts, and lower speed data services.

The mobile providers have decided to switch off their 3G networks, starting from early next year. This will affect customers on those networks using older mobile devices and services. If you have a 4G or 5G mobile device or service, this change is unlikely to affect you and may only require a software update.

Providers are switching off their networks at different times

Each mobile provider is setting its own timetable for its 3G network switch-off. These timings might change and you should check your mobile provider’s website for the latest update:

  • Vodafone is starting its switch-off in early 2023.
  • EE plans to start its switch-off in early 2024.
  • Three expects to switch-off by the end of 2024.
  • O2 has not yet announced any switch-off plans.

Your provider will tell you if you’re affected

Your mobile provider will contact you to let you know if you are affected and what steps you need to take. You might also be able to check your device settings to see if it has 4G available – try checking under ‘mobile networks’ or ‘mobile data’.

If you have a newer device, you might not need to do anything

If you’re already using a newer 4G or 5G device, you shouldn’t need to do anything. Some 4G devices might still need a software update to ensure any calls you make use the right network. Your provider will tell you if that’s the case and explain how to make the updates needed.

Customers using the EE, Vodafone and O2 networks with an older device will still be able to make calls and send text messages after 3G switch-off. These services can use the 2G network, which isn’t being switched off yet. But the 2G network was not designed to work for accessing data services, so customers with older devices will no longer be able to access most of their data services after 3G switch-off.

Three doesn’t have a 2G network, so if you’re using the Three network and have an older device, you’ll need to replace it to make sure you can continue to make calls, send text messages and access data after 2024.

2G will be switched off by 2033

All the mobile providers have confirmed to the Government that they do not plan to offer their 2G (and 3G) services beyond 2033.

We expect that mobile providers will start making plans to switch off their 2G networks at some point after they have switched off their 3G networks. None of the providers have set a specific date yet, but we will update this advice if their plans change.

2G and 3G networks are also being switched off around the world

The 2G and 3G networks are gradually being switched off around the world; all the 3G networks have already been switched off in the USA. Each country has a different timetable for switch-off.