© Formactual Projects Ltd t/a PTT



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

April 17th, 2024

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.


Unravelling the communications web

April 3rd, 2024

Fibre optic cable ship

Telecommunications is interwoven into the fabric of modern society. We perhaps take it for granted our ability to access online services and communicate electronically with family, friends, and colleagues.
Because of our reliance on telecommunications, any unravelling of the communications webs that serve national and international communities must be avoided. But threats to our ability to communicate take many forms including natural disasters, accidental damage, and malicious actions.

Earlier this year, damage to four subsea cables off the west coast of Africa disrupted internet services across the continent. Cables affected included the West African submarine cable system (WACS). The cause of the disruption is believed to be seismic activity. A year earlier the same cable was damaged with the cause attributed to a subsea landslide.
Just prior to the 2024 WACS disruption, three submarine cables in the Red Sea were damaged, probably by the anchor of a cargo ship sunk by Houthi militants. The Red Sea is a critical telecommunications route, connecting Europe to Africa and Asia via Egypt. The severing of the WACS system at around the same time made finding alternative routes for African traffic more difficult.

In 2023, a gas pipeline and a close-by subsea telecommunications cable stretching between Finland and Estonia were damaged. On the same night, another subsea telecommunications cable connecting Estonia and Sweden had also been damaged.
The cause of these events is clouded by politics and possible subterfuge. At the time a nuclear-powered ship owned by the Russian state was in the area. But to make the situation even murkier a Chinese vessel was tracked accompanying the Russian ship at both locations. Finland has recovered the anchor of the Chinese vessel from near the gas pipeline. Whether the damage to the two cables and pipeline was accidental or malicious may never be ascertained. Both China and Russia deny any involvement.

Because of these threats to International communications, the EU Council has produced a report on the cybersecurity and resilience of Europe’s communications infrastructures and networks. Included in that report is a recommendation that EU member states should investigate the ownership, capacity, resilience, and redundancy of core Internet infrastructure including submarine cables.

PTT’s online courses “Telecommunications systems security” and “Telecommunications infrastructure and administration” discuss how to improve the resilience of the telecommunications systems we all rely on.


The importance of network maintenance and fault-finding

March 20th, 2024

Network engineer test equipment


Most people on the planet now use some form of communications network as part of their daily lives. We are so accustomed having our phones, computers and many other devices connected to the outside world, when something goes wrong with the network, it can cause a lot of disruption.

When communications networks go wrong, it often creates international news, such as when the telecoms network run by Australian firm Optus went down for almost 12 hours in November 2023. Such outages are rare, but in a connected world, being unable to place phone calls, use the internet, make card payments, use public transport or call the emergency services can be almost disastrous.

Which is why regular network maintenance and fault-finding is an essential task for telecommunications and network engineers. Skilled engineers are able to constantly be aware of potential issues before they arise, work on preventative maintenance and swiftly identify faults and rectify them as they occur.

PTT has two updated online courses covering this topic that are essential for those responsible for the installation and maintenance of telecommunications, local and wide area networks.

The “Telecoms testing and fault finding” course describes how to follow a structured approach to fault finding and maintenance, and the role and significance of the various tests employed on telecommunications networks and broadband connections.

Network testing and fault-finding” also explains the benefits and methods of following a structured approach to fault-finding and maintenance, and describes the role of the various tests employed on Ethernet/IP networks and their use in fault finding and measuring network performance.

These online courses can either be studied as a standalone course of study by anybody working in the industry or can become part of a structured programme such as an apprenticeship. In the UK, these courses can fulfil certain knowledge objectives in a number of digital apprenticeships, including:
Level 2 Telecoms Field Operative (K9, K10)
Level 3 Information Communications Technician – Network Technician (K3, K9, K25, K28)
Level 3 Information Communications Technician – Digital Communications Technician (K3, K9, K43)
Level 4 Network Engineer (K1, K4, K5, K6, K15, K17)

If you want to discuss this subject with us further, or any training needs, please contact us.