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Vodafone UK completes 3G shutdown to enhance 4G/5G services

Vodafone UK has followed EE’s announcement this week by officially shutting down its 3G mobile network nationwide. This transition allows for the repurposing of related radio frequencies to bolster the faster 4G and 5G services.

While Vodafone claims the switch-off is complete as of this week, it slightly missed its initial target of finishing by the end of January 2024. Additionally, a “small number of locations” with “UK security significance” and some remote rural areas will remain operational for a brief period after the main switch-off, although specifics regarding the duration remain undisclosed.

The cessation of the 3G network liberates valuable radio spectrum frequencies, particularly 10MHz in the 900MHz band, which can now be reallocated to enhance the coverage and speed of modern 4G and 5G networks. Moreover, this move is expected to reduce operational costs and significantly decrease power consumption on Vodafone’s network infrastructure.

Andrea Dona, Network Director at Vodafone UK, 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.”

This development leaves only two major operators yet to complete their 3G switch-off initiatives. Three UK aims to conclude its programme by the end of 2024, while Virgin Media O2 will commence its switch-off process in 2025, with completion expected by the same year.

The UK government previously agreed with mobile operators to completely phase out 2G and 3G networks by 2033. 2G networks will likely remain active for slightly longer than 3G, as they require less power and remain useful for some rural and IoT connections such as smart meters.

As part of its planned merger with Three UK, Vodafone UK has committed to injecting £11 billion into the economy over the next decade to extend 5G Standalone (5G SA) coverage to 99 percent of the British population by 2034.