Orange Belgium has revealed its plans to gradually sunset its 3G network in response to the declining number of 3G device users and the underutilization of network capacity. This move follows the global trend of mobile operators discontinuing their 3G networks to make room for more advanced technologies such as 4G and 5G.
Steady Decline in 3G Usage
In a blog post, Orange said the decrease in voice calls and data traffic on Orange Belgium's 3G network has been steady, reaching only a fraction of past volumes. Consequently, the capacity allocated to 3G communications is significantly underutilized. By deactivating the 3G network, Orange Belgium can repurpose the freed-up capacity to support the growing demand for 4G and 5G technologies.
Global Trend of 3G Network Elimination
According to Orange, this trend of decreased usage of 3G is not limited to Orange Belgium alone, as mobile operators in Europe, America, and Asia are also gradually phasing out their 3G networks. Notably, Orange shared that the United States completed the full deactivation of 3G in the summer of 2022. In Belgium, all three major mobile operators have announced their plans to progressively discontinue 3G.
Orange Belgium's Timeline for 3G Deactivation
Orange Belgium is set to begin the process of shutting down its 3G network in January 2024. The deactivation will occur in stages, with different regions in Belgium being addressed sequentially. According to the published timetable on Orange's website, Wetteren will be the first to witness the 3G sunset in January 2024, followed by the Namur Region in February, Kust and Fagnes in April, Anvers, Gent, and Leuven in May, and the Mons region in June. The aim is to complete the deactivation of 3G across the entire Belgian territory by the end of 2025.
Majority of Customers Already on 4G
Fortunately, the majority of Orange Belgium's customers have already transitioned to 4G, utilizing Voice over LTE (VoLTE) for voice calls and data communication. Consequently, the impact of the 3G network deactivation will be minimal for most users.
2G Network Continuity and Data Traffic Considerations
Customers with older 3G mobile phones will still have the option to connect to the 2G network, which offers voice call quality comparable to that of 3G. However, the 2G network is less suitable for handling large volumes of data traffic. Therefore, Orange Belgium advises businesses and individuals who rely on 3G devices for mobile data exchange to upgrade to 4G devices that support VoLTE.
Orange Belgium assures its customers that the 2G network will remain in service at least until the end of 2028. However, specific dates for the elimination of the 2G network will be confirmed at a later time, providing users with ample opportunity to transition to more advanced technologies.
By phasing out the 3G network, Orange Belgium aims to optimize network resources and cater to the increasing demand for faster and more efficient 4G and 5G connectivity.