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2G/3G Switch Off: What you need to know
Mobile networks will be gradually switching off their 2G and 3G networks. All the mobile providers have confirmed with the UK Government that they do not plan to offer their 2G and 3G services beyond 2033.
Why are the operators switching off their 2G and 3G networks?
By retiring 3G and 2G, these radio frequencies can be repurposed for faster, more energy-efficient 4G and 5G services.
5G is ten times more energy efficient than 3G and offer customers better, faster and more reliable services.
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 to take.
What is the timeline for the switch-off of 2G and 3G?
All operators have agreed with the government to switch off 2G and 3G by 2033.
Virtual networks (otherwise known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators), such as Giffgaff, Tesco Mobile and Smarty, operate off the main four mobile network operators. As such, their schedules will mimic the parent network.
What if I have a 3G or 2G only device?
If you’re using an older device that doesn’t allow you to use 4G or 5G, you’ll need to get a more modern one to continue to access your data.
Your operator will contact you if this is the case and outline what steps you can take.
Is this happening in other parts of the world?
Yes, although different countries are at different stages.
For example, all 3G networks have been switched off in the United States of America.
Vodafone has already retired 3G in Germany and Italy.
A number of networks in Netherlands have also switched off 3G.
Will the 2G / 3G switch-off impact coverage?
Very unlikely. There are very few places with only a 3G signal and networks are working to ensure a 4G signal will be ready to replace it when it’s time to retire 3G.
What if your phone doesn’t have 4G?
If you want to make calls and access the internet while out and about without having to rely on public WiFi, then you will need a more modern mobile phone.
What are the MNO plans for 2G?
All the mobile providers have confirmed with the UK government that they do not plan to offer their 2G and 3G services beyond 2033. (Please note that Three UK has never had a 2G network as it launched as a 100% 3G network).
Mobile operators will start making plans to switch off their 2G networks at some point after they have switched off their 3G networks.
What if you are travelling to a country where the switch-off has already begun?
If you’re travelling to a country where the switch-off has already begun, it might affect your roaming experience. In some cases, you might not be able to make calls or access data unless you are connected to WiFi (especially if you have an older phone). In rare cases, this might also impact your ability to call emergency services when abroad. Please speak to your provider before you leave the UK, and read our related advice on using your phone abroad.