British telecommunications company BT has officially announced the timeline for the shutdown of EE's 3G network across the United Kingdom, marking the end of an era in mobile connectivity. BT said EE initially launched its 3G network in the early 2000s, and now, as technologies continue to evolve, it has become necessary to phase out 3G in favour of more advanced technologies like 4G and 5G. BT further revealed that its planned shutdown of the 3G network is scheduled to commence in January 2024 and conclude by March.
BT said it aims to ensure a smooth transition for its users and EE has been working to ensure that all customers are supported during the transition to 4G and 5G. The company said it is offering free 4G-ready mobile phones to vulnerable customers.
Additionally, EE has partnered with AbilityNet to provide digital skills training to elderly and vulnerable people who require assistance during this network transition.
Warrington's 3G Phase-out Pilot
BT emphasised that Warrington was the first town in the UK where the 3G network shutdown was piloted, starting on July 18, 2023, as reported by TelecomTalk.
BT also pointed out that during the 3G switch-off, there were no customer complaints related to network coverage or performance. Importantly, there were no capacity issues on either EE's 2G or 4G networks, even as more users relied on them daily.
Towards a Greener Future
Beyond improving network efficiency, retiring 3G aligns with sustainability goals. BT has highlighted that 3G currently accounts for approximately 35 percent of BT's mobile network's total power consumption, far surpassing its actual usage. The shift to modern networks like 4G and 5G promises not only faster and more reliable services but also up to ten times greater energy efficiency.
In fact, BT estimates that the retirement of the 3G network across the UK will save an amount of energy equivalent to fully charging up to four billion smartphones. This represents a significant step towards a more sustainable future for the planet and its customers.
A Modern Mobile Network
EE said it has also implemented several enhancements to its radio technology to ensure that customers whose phones already support 4G connectivity can stay connected to it for longer.
For those without modern handsets or plans, BT's 2G network, covering 99 percent of the population, serves as a dependable fallback for voice calls and texts. To support the decision to switch off 3G, BT has provided statistics on 3G usage within the EE network, which saw a drop to record lows this summer. It accounted for just 0.6 percent of the total data downloaded and 7 percent of voice traffic.
A Bright Future Ahead
According to Ofcom's Mobile Matters 2023 report, EE customers now spend only 2.7 percent of their time connected to 3G, the lowest among all UK mobile operators.
BT said after the 3G network switch-off, it will reuse the spectrum for 4G and 5G services, thus providing more communities with access to a fast, reliable, and sustainable mobile network. As EE's 3G network prepares to switch off in early 2024, EE is already modernising its network to support a wider range of consumer experiences with advanced technology.