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Sunset for 2G and 3G; sunrise for 5G

Mobile antenna

UK mobile operators Vodafone and EE have completed the shutdown of their 3G services. Virgin Media/O2 intends to start retiring their 3G service in 2025.

Vodafone, Deutsche Telecom, and Telefonica in Germany switched of 3G in 2021 and 19 other operators In Europe have announced their intention to switch off 3G by 2025.

In most European countries, 2G (GSM) services will remain operational for a while longer though Swisscom terminated their 2G service in 2021. It is expected that all 2G services in the UK will cease by 2033. This deferment is mainly because 2G is still used for machine type communications including telecare devices, payment terminals, vehicle emergency call (eCall) facility, and smart meters.

The switch-off is happening at different paces globally, with some countries having already completed the process. For example, operators in Australia completed their shut down of 2G in 2018.

The retirement of 2G and 3G services will release radio spectrum that can be refarmed for 4G and 5G services. 5G systems are also ten times more energy efficient than 3G allowing operators to contribute to net zero energy use targets.

The predominant mobile generation in the UK and Europe is now 4G with 93% of the UK landmass being covered by at least one 4G mobile service provider and 71% by all providers.

The provision of a 5G service is also expanding. Approaching 80% percent of the European and UK populations were covered by the 5G service of at least one operator in 2023. Of course, if you happen to live in a “not-spot” of a rural area and are using the “wrong” service provider, then your experience may belie the seemingly encouraging national picture.

To gain the maximum benefit from 5G, a so-called “5G standalone” (5G SA) service that does not rely on existing 4G infrastructure is required. But the implementation of 5G SA has been slow. According to a recent report, just ten 5G SAs have launched in Europe compared with 17 in Asia

50% of the German population has access to Vodafone’s 5G SA service while 5G SA services have recently been launched by Vodafone and VMO2 in several UK cities.

PTT offers several online courses covering mobile technologies and services ranging from the Introduction to mobile systems to the Advanced mobile systems course.