Features | 13 Oct 2023

3G switch-off: What it means for your business

3G is being retired soon, so if you're a Vodafone business customer then here's what you and your company need to do next.

Vodafone is switching off its 3G network across the UK. The decision – which is in line with all the other UK mobile network operators – will see the 3G network phased out by early 2024 and replaced by stronger 4G and 5G services. Vodafone’s 2G network, which currently covers over 99% of the UK population, will remain in place for calls, texts and a number of business applications.

Vodafone has already switched off its 3G network in Basingstoke, Glasgow, Hull, Oxford and Plymouth. If you’re a Vodafone business customer elsewhere in the country – big or small –here are the key things you need to know about 3G and our switch off plans.

One of the many benefits of switching off 3G is the ability to reuse the radio frequencies currently used by 3G to deliver stronger and faster 4G and 5G coverage in more places.

What is 3G?

The evolution of mobile coverage has occurred in several generations over the decades:

  • 2G – the earliest generation technology still in use. 2G is limited to calls, texts and certain business applications which use low amounts of data.
  • 3G – this has been in service since the early 2000s. It offers speeds high enough to allow some basic data services, but it takes noticeably longer to download and upload than 4G and 5G.
  • 4G – offers faster data as well as services such as 4G Calling, which is a way of making calls with far better audio quality than 3G. Vodafone 4G is currently available to over 99% of the UK’s population.
  • 5G – the latest generation of wireless technology with much faster speeds than 4G. It has low latency, so there’s much less time between performing an action online and seeing a response. With its significantly increased capacity over 4G, more phones and devices can be connected in the same area without slowing down data speeds. 5G is the technology which is starting to introduce the business and society applications of the future; from remote GP patient diagnosis or remotely assisted surgery; car park space monitoring to driverless cars; VR shopping experiences to smart factory robotic manufacturing.

How do I know which ‘G’ my mobile phone is using?

Most phones will tell you which ‘generation’ network they are connected to – just look for the symbol in either the top left-hand or right-hand corner of your phones’ screen. It’s worth remembering however that, depending on the mobile phone you have and your location, it may switch between network types while you’re out and about.

3G switch-off is coming: Here's what you need to do

In 2023 Vodafone is retiring 3G in the UK, so it’s time to check your phone – and to check-in on your relatives and neighbours – to see if and how you’ll be affected by the switch-off.

Why is Vodafone doing this?

Like the other UK operators, we made a commitment to the UK Government to switch off our 3G service. There’s a number of valid reasons why this is the right time to switch off.

  • Switching off 3G, means we can take the radio frequencies it uses and repurpose them to deliver stronger and faster 4G and 5G coverage. Customers are already seeing the benefit in those towns and cities where we’ve switched off 3G.
  • Less than 2% of the data used across our UK network now travels on 3G, compared to more than 30% in 2016.
  • 5G is up to 10 times more energy efficient than 3G, helping our drive towards net zero.

Has Vodafone’s 3G switch off already started?

Yes. Vodafone 3G has already been switched off in Basingstoke, Glasgow, Hull, Oxford and Plymouth. The final phase of 3G switch off will take place in early 2024.

Will my mobile phone be affected?

The majority of our customers with mobile phones will not notice the difference. If you’re a Vodafone customer with a mobile phone that, for example, works on 2G, 4G or 5G then, when you’re in coverage, it will still work on 2G, 4G or 5G.

If you have a compatible 4G handset and you’re in coverage, we have 4G Calling. This uses 4G instead of the usual 2G or 3G to make or receive calls. Vodafone also offers WiFi Calling. Compatible phones can use it to make or receive calls and texts over WiFi.

Will I have worse mobile coverage, or none at all, when Vodafone retires 3G?

Vodafone continues to work hard to ensure all masts that have been providing 2G and 3G coverage will provide 4G by the time 3G is switched off. One of the many benefits of switching off 3G is the ability to reuse the radio frequencies currently used by 3G to deliver stronger and faster 4G and 5G coverage in more places.

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When 3G is switched off, customers with 3G mobile devices will still be able to make and receive calls and texts through Vodafone’s 2G network. You’ll also still be able to use mobile data if you have a 4G or 5G device. For a better experience, we recommend ensuring your 4G or 5G device supports services such as 4G Calling.

What about Machine to Machine (M2M) or Internet of Things (IoT) devices?

M2M and IoT are technologies that provide mobile network connectivity to devices besides the usual phones and computers. Sensors that provide real time information on transport and energy networks are the most common, but another example would be the provision of internet connectivity to the WiFi networks on buses and trains.

The Internet of Things: Everything you need to know

The Internet of Things may sound like buzzword bingo, but this low-key yet wide-ranging technology is already changing our lives in many ways.

Vodafone has long been working hard to ensure that the impact of 3G’s retirement on such M2M and IoT uses is limited. The company continues to speak to customers that may be affected by the switch off about the options available. Even so, the majority of M2M and IoT devices on the Vodafone network already use 2G, 4G and 5G, so they will switch over to one of those networks if 3G isn’t available.

What do I do if I believe my mobile phone or M2M device will be affected by the switch off?

Vodafone is asking all customers to review their devices and applications, and consider upgrading old devices, to ensure they are ready to say goodbye to 3G. All Vodafone business customers should ensure they are ready by December 2023, ahead of the final phase of 3G switch off in early 2024. If you or your wider business are a Vodafone customer and have any concerns, please do get in touch as soon as possible, and before December 2023, by contacting your account or service manager. Or by contacting the Vodafone customer service team on 191 (free from a Vodafone mobile).

Where can I find more information about the 3G switch off?

If you are a Vodafone business customer, more information is available by:

  • Visiting our dedicated information page.
  • Visiting your local Vodafone store.
  • Contacting the Vodafone customer service team on 191 (free from a Vodafone mobile) or 0333 3040 191 from a landline.
  • Speaking to your Account Manager, or Service Manager, if you have one.

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