Hi Digital | 17 Mar 2022

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.

Vodafone is preparing to retire its 3G network in the UK. Most people won’t be affected as the overwhelming majority of phones released in the UK in the past 10 years work on 4G as well as 3G.

But a minority of Vodafone customers will be. To find out if you will be affected requires just a couple of straightforward checks on your smartphone, or the phones of your neighbours and relatives. It might seem like a faff, but the pay-off will be an improved network and mobile data experience for everyone.

Does this mean my 3G phone will no longer work?

If you’re a Vodafone UK customer with a mobile phone that doesn’t have 4G, you will no longer be able to use it to access the internet over 3G once the 3G network is switched off. But you will still be able to make and receive calls and texts.

How can I tell if my phone has 4G or not?

To check if a phone works on 4G or not, visit the IMEI Info website. By following the website’s instructions, you’ll find and type in your phone’s 15-digit IMEI number. After typing in this unique identifying number, you will see a webpage listing your phone’s specifications.

If it has a green tick in the ‘LTE’ box (LTE or Long-Term Evolution is another term for 4G), then your phone can use mobile data on 4G networks.

Alternatively, check with the manufacturer of your phone – their website, or the documentation that came with your phone, should be your first port of call.

It’s also worth checking to see if your phone supports 4G Calling.

What is 4G Calling?

4G Calling, also known as Voice over LTE or VoLTE, is a way of making phone calls with far better audio quality than was possible using older mobile technologies. While Vodafone has long supported 4G Calling in the UK, some of the very earliest 4G phones don’t support it – if your 4G phone does not, then it will use 2G for calls.

To check if your phone supports 4G Calling, use this Vodafone UK webpage. It’s worth doing both of these checks not only on your own phone, but on those belonging to friends, family and neighbours who may still be using older phones that will be affected by the 3G switch-off.

These checks use the IMEI number, which is a unique identification number that all phones have. The easiest way to find it is to dial *#06# on your phone. You can also check your SIM tray, the box your device came in or your device Settings. On some devices, multiple numbers can be listed, like EID, IMEI2 and MEID. Only use the number labelled IMEI.

How can I turn on 4G Calling?

image illustrating the WiFi Calling option in the My Vodafone app on an iPhone

If both your phone and your Vodafone plan support 4G Calling, you can turn it on by following these instructions. If you need help, there are several ways to contact customer support.

If my phone doesn’t have 4G, do I have to buy a new phone?

If you want to access the internet while out and about, without having to rely on public WiFi, then you will need a new phone. There’s a wide variety of models to suit every budget on the Vodafone UK website.

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

Vodafone constantly works to improve its network in the UK, by bringing mobile coverage to locations across the country, by using the latest technologies, and by working with other operators. In places where there is currently only 3G signal, 4G signal will be ready to replace it when it’s time to retire 3G.

It’s worth doing these checks not only on your own phone, but on those belonging to friends, family and neighbours

When is Vodafone switching off 3G in the UK?

Not until 2024, so there’s plenty of time to check your phone – and those of your loved ones and neighbours.

In which parts of the UK will Vodafone 3G be retired first?

The Vodafone 3G network will be switched off in Basingstoke and Plymouth, starting in February 2023. Affected Vodafone, VOXI and Talkmobile customers in both towns have already been contacted.

Why is Vodafone switching off 3G in the UK?

By retiring 3G, the radio frequencies it uses can be repurposed for faster, more energy-efficient 4G and 5G services instead. 5G is 10 times more energy efficient than 3G. Vodafone has already retired 3G in Germany and Italy, so it will be drawing upon those experiences when switching off 3G in the UK.

How can I get more help?

For further assistance, visit your local Vodafone UK store, or go online to the Vodafone UK support webpage, or contact customer support using webchat or phone.

This article was first published in March 2022 and was last updated in February 2023.

Stay up-to-date with the very latest news from Vodafone by following us on Twitter and signing up for News Centre website notifications.