Smart Living | Everything you need to know

Roaming in the US and 3G switch-off: Everything you need to know

3G will soon be retired in the US, which will affect some Vodafone UK customers while roaming – to see if you’ll be affected, check now before you fly.

If you’re jetting off to visit the US, then you need to know that mobile providers there are retiring their 3G networks. As the vast majority of smartphones released in the past decade work on 4G as well as 3G, most people won’t notice that 3G is gone while they’re travelling stateside. Here’s what you need to know, including how to tell if you’ll be affected.

Does this mean my 3G phone will no longer work when I’m roaming in the US?

If you’re a Vodafone UK customer with a phone that doesn’t have 4G, you will no longer be able to use it to access the internet over 3G.

Will I still be able to make calls while I’m in the US?

If you have a 3G phone, you’ll be able to make phone calls (as well as use mobile data if you wish) on T-Mobile’s 2G network in America.

If you have a 4G phone, you’ll be able to use mobile data on T-Mobile’s 4G network and make calls on T-Mobile’s 2G network. If you’re in a part of the US without coverage from T-Mobile’s network, you’ll be connected to AT&T’s 4G network. In that case you’ll be able to access the internet, but you won’t be able to make phone calls.

This is because AT&T has already retired its 2G network, while T-Mobile’s 2G network is still active.

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

Visit the IMEI Info website. By following the on-screen instructions there, you’ll find and type in your phone’s 15-digit IMEI number. After typing in this unique identifier, you will see a webpage listing your phone’s specifications. If it has a green tick mark in the ‘LTE’ box (LTE or Long-Term Evolution is another term for 4G), then your phone can use 4G mobile data.

Alternatively, check with the manufacturer of your phone – its website, or the paperwork that came with your phone, should be able to help.

It’s also worth checking to see if your phone supports 4G Calling (more on this below).

When is 3G being retired in the US?

The US networks that provide mobile signal to roaming Vodafone UK customers will stop their 3G service by 1 July 2022.

What is 4G Calling?

4G Calling, also known as Voice over LTE or VoLTE, is a way of making phone calls with better-sounding audio quality than was ever possible with 3G or 2G. Vodafone has long supported 4G Calling in the UK and will be rolling out 4G Calling Abroad to customers roaming in the USA later in 2022.

Some of the very earliest 4G phones don’t support 4G Calling though. Plus, some phones can’t use 4G Calling when you’re overseas. This Vodafone UK webpage lists which smartphones support 4G Calling Abroad.

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

Not necessarily. As an alternative, you can connect your phone to WiFi networks while you’re travelling.

Why is 3G going away in the US?

The American mobile networks, which provide mobile signal to roaming Vodafone UK customers, have decided to switch off their 3G.

How much will it cost me to roam in the USA?

It depends on which Vodafone mobile plan you have.

Roaming with Vodafone in 2023: Everything you need to know

Whether you’re travelling to an EU country or further afield, here are the facts about charges for using your phone abroad.

Is Vodafone retiring 3G in the UK?

Yes, in 2023.

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.

I still have concerns – how can I get more help?

If you need further help and advice, then you can get assistance by visiting a Vodafone UK store, visiting the Vodafone UK support website or by calling or chatting with customer support.

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