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With the arrival of 5G, operators across the world are shutting down their older networks (2G, 3G).
The main objectives of this measure are:
Efficiency: there will no longer be a need to maintain networks which are used less and less
Refarming: using the 3G spectrum to deploy on 4G and 5G to improve performances
In the UK, all mobile network operators have committed to closing their 3G networks, starting from January 2024.
EE has also planned an early 3G sunset in the Warrington area starting from July 2023.
Although 2G remains for now, EE plans to retire 2G by 2033. In fact, all UK networks are looking to close both 2G and 3G over the next decade. However, while 2G remains, your customers will still be able to make and receive calls, as well as send and receive texts using the 2G network.
To maintain access to data services and the internet, you will need to ensure that your customers’ devices and service is compatible with 4G or 5G and updating the service where necessary. Organising new services can take some time, so it’s imperative you plan your replacement services to protect your customers from the inconvenience of loss of service.
To help you, we have highlighted some things you and your customers should start doing now in preparation:
Take an inventory of people, devices, and applications that use a mobile SIM, and specifically any that have an active 3G data connection in Warrington.
Replace all the SIMs in your 3G mobile inventory with SIMs that can access the 4G or 5G network.
All your customers’ devices, SIMs, and tariffs will need to be 4G or 5G ready. This could mean upgrading some devices to newer versions.
Your customers should check their device settings to ensure their device is 4G or 5G enabled.
Here is the checklist to make sure your subscribers will be unaffected by the sunset:
SIMs: check that your subscribers have SIMs which are 4G/5G ready. Some older SIMs may only be 3G compatible and these will need to be replaced.
Devices: check that your subscribers’ devices are at least compatible with 4G. Older devices may be 3G-only (the iPhone 4 was the first 4G-compatible device)
Settings: subscribers should check their devices to see that the correct data settings are selected. These should be 5G or automatic.
Provisioning: to access the 4G and 5G networks, the SIM should be provisioned correctly. Check Auriga, your APIs and your offer to see if your subscribers have the right data access assigned to them.
If you need any help identifying your mobile inventory, please contact your Account Manager.
With the shutting down of the 3G network, many phones will have to rely on 2G to carry voice and SMS services.
However, since the arrival of 4G, networks have been deploying Voice over IMS (VoIMS). This means using an IMS core to use IP-based voice services: namely VoLTE and VoWiFi.
If your customers’ devices do not support VoLTE or 4G Calling, then your customers may not be able to make calls (including to emergency services).
You should check:
Devices: your subscribers devices should at least be compatible with VoLTE (the iPhone 6 was the first VoLTE-enabled phone)
Settings: subscribers should check their devices to see what voice settings are selected. These should be 4G, VoLTE or automatic.
Provisioning: to access VoIMS, the SIM needs to be provisioned correctly. Check Auriga, your APIs and your offer to see if your subscribers have the right voice access.
June 2023: the pilot 3G sunset scheme in Warrington will begin
January 2024: the progressive withdrawal of 3G will happen across the rest of the UK
EE have planned a pilot scheme in Warrington from 17th July 2023 as a first test to prepare for the withdrawal of the entire EE 3G network in January 2024. This will be in order to gauge customer experience and feedback.
The Warrington area has been chosen as it has good 2G and 4G coverage; thus, ensuring the best possible service for your customers.
Customers in some neighbouring areas may also notice they can’t access the 3G network.
For your customers in Warrington, we recommend that your replacement services should be in place and ready for the switch off on 17th July 2023.
For subscribers who already have access to 4G, 5G and VoLTE, there will be no impact. Your customers’ phones will continue to connect to the fastest network connection available, subject to device capability and settings.
If your customers have a 3G phone when 3G is retired, they will only be able to use the 2G network. They’ll still be able to make and receive calls, as well as send and receive texts. However, by upgrading to a 4G or 5G phone, they will benefit from a much better service.
Each country has telecoms specificities, therefore before you go it’s always best to check the situation in the country you’re travelling to. The good news is that since 4G, technologies have been increasingly globally standardised. If you’re 4G, VoLTE and 5G ready, you’ll have a better global roaming experience.
Some countries across the world have already started their 3G sunset (e.g. the USA), or their 2G sunset (e.g. Singapore), and some operators have not even launched certain network technologies.
Additionally, before the 4G network was launched, the telecom industry was less standardised and many operators launched different technologies (3G versions UMTS in Europe, Japan & China vs CDMA in the USA) which may require specific handset compatibility.