Deutsche Telekom has joined Telefonica Deutschland and Vodafone Germany in announcing a date for the retirement of their 3G network

The life cycle of a mobile technology is a fickle thing. For most of us in the West, 4G coverage has become fairly ubiquitous, though the 3G icon may still make a regular appearance on our smart phone screens. Even the older mobile tech, 2G, is still supported in many areas, typically much to the operators’ chagrin. Now, as 5G begins to be rolled out in earnest, many operators are asking the age-old question: when and how can we retire our older network tech?
When it comes to 3G, Germany may have settled on an answer. On Friday, Deutsche Telekom announced that it will seek to switch off its 3G networks by summer 2021, in line with Vodafone Germany’s target announced a few months earlier. Similarly, Telefonica Deutschland has said that it would like to turn off its 3G tech by the end of 2021, meaning Germany could be primarily reliant on LTE and 5G in just over a year’s time.
But turning off the older-generation technology could have serious ramifications for a significant chunk of the German population. In a report by the Federal Network Agency at the end of 2018, only 47% of SIM cards actively used in Germany were LTE-capable. While this situation is likely to have improved significantly over the last two years, shutting off 3G could still see a number of people suddenly reliant on the slow 2G network for their mobile connectivity needs.
Deutsche Telekom say that the coverage gaps left in the wake of 3G’s switch off will be filled with 4G, which means users with compatible devices should see a notable improvement in their coverage speeds.
"The 3G switch-off next summer will enable us to further improve our network," said Dirk Wössner, Telekom Deutschland CEO. "We are using the 3G frequency spectrum that is becoming available for the most modern technologies. We want LTE for everyone and we are building Germany’s largest 5G network".
Deutsche Telekom’s 5G network recently hit a milestone of covering half of the German population.
How will the 3G shut-down affect the German telcoms market? Find out from the experts at this year’s Connected Germany 
Also in the news: