Three UK has revealed plans to end 3G mobile network services by the end of 2024, following similar announcements by competitors Vodafone and EE

Three UK has today confirmed its decision to switch off 3G mobile services by the end of 2024. 

 Three, which began operations back in 2003, was the UK’s first 3G-only operator and, as such, the decision to disconnect its 3G services is a pivotal one. 

Following similar shut down announcements by Vodaphone and EE, Three’s shutting down of 3G mobile services will free up the spectrum to be refarmed and therefore improve 4G and the rapidly expanding 5G services. 

Virgin Media O2, the UK’s fourth mobile network operator, has yet to announce a decision regarding 3G shut down.

Throughout the UK, 3G services have been largely overridden by the availability of 4G and 5G services. According to Three, 5G usage is now more popular than 3G in the UK and, by the end of the year, will account for 35% of all of its mobile network usage. 

David Hennessy, Chief Technology Officer at Three said: “3G kick-started the mobile revolution – and launched Three into the UK 20 years ago – but the future is undoubtedly 5G. As we continue to roll out our ultrafast connectivity, by not only upgrading our existing 4G sites but building new 5G sites, we’ll be in a position to switch off our use of 3G across our network by the end of 2024.” 

However, the shutdown will mean that some customers will have to upgrade their devices before 2024 in order to transition smoothly to 4G and 5G services. This is particularly important for Three compared to its UK rivals, since it has no 2G network for customers to fall back to after its 3G network goes dark. 

Vodafone and EE, on the other hand, will continue to offer 2G services in addition to their 4G and 5G operations after they switch off 3G. 2G connectivity is still widely used by low-powered IoT devices and provides a favourable fallback option for voice-only communication. 

What impact will the shut down of 3G services have the UK’s mobile ecosystem? Find out from the experts at this year’s live Connected Britain event