Customers making use of the 3G service will be migrated to 4G and 5G services, with Vodafone working alongside The Good Things Foundation and other third parties to facilitate the switch

After 17 years of continuous operation, Vodafone has today announced that it will begin retiring 3G services from 2023. 
As the service is phased out, customers still reliant on the service will gradually be shifted to the more advanced 4G and 5G, offering faster and more reliable services to customers.
The spectrum that was previously used for the 3G services will be refarmed to support these more advanced services.
Vodafone’s 3G service has been in operation for around 17 years, but its usage has dwindled in the past decade, largely as a result of the rapid rollout of 4G, which Vodafone launched commercially in 2013. In 2016, 3G data traffic still represented over 30% of the company’s network usage, but this figure has fallen to just 4% today.
Customers currently using the 3G service on a 4G-capable device should see little disruption to their service, simply switching to 4G services free of charge. For those with older devices uncapable of 4G, however, the situation could be more problematic, with customers either forced to shift down to low-quality 2G services or even see their devices stop working altogether. 
Older people, less familiar with new technology, and those in rural areas could be disproportionately affected. In total, around 2.2% of the UK does not have 4G or 5G coverage.
Vodafone says they are seeking to ensure that “nobody gets left behind” as a result of this transition, partnering with the The Good Things Foundation and other third parties to help increase digital inclusion. A partnership specifically focussed on older demographics around the country is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
“We start communicating to customers about this today,” said Ahmed Essam, chief executive of Vodafone UK. “Our goal is for everyone to stay connected, and we will be doing everything we can to make sure that is the case.”
Vodafone notes that this switch off is not only about ensuring that all customers gain access to better quality connectivity and related services, but that it will also be considerably greener for the environment. According to Vodafone, 5G networks are ten-times more energy efficient than their 3G counterparts, thus the shut down will play a crucial role in helping Vodafone achieve its carbon neutral target of 2027. 
“We’re going to be focused on giving customers a faster and more reliable mobile experience and minimising our impact on the environment by taking away a layer of our network that uses inefficient equipment,” said Essam.
Vodafone is not alone in aiming to shut down 3G in the near future. Indeed, EE announced last year that they would target 2023 for their own 3G switch off. 
Three and O2 have yet to announce their own timelines. 
Finally, it should be noted that this announcement means that Vodafone will be shutting down 3G services before their 2G services. While this may seem counterintuitive, the reasoning is that various low-power IoT devices, like smart metres, will continue to make use of the wide-reaching 2G service for machine-to-machine communications, as well as having the network provide a useful backup for essential voice communications in hard-to-reach areas. 

What does the sunset of 3G mean for UK mobile connectivity? Find out from the experts at this year’s live Connected Britain conference 
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