“We will worry about that later”

2023 is the year that most of 3G will be switched off in the UK. That fairly stark sentence may come as a shock to some readers but Mobius has been talking about the 3G sunset for at least five years. Why is this happening and what impact will it have?

The why is quite straight forward, 3G has been around for more than 20 years. 3G is a separate radio system from 2G or 4G, it hogs frequency and 4G does everything 3G does, but better and cheaper. The networks stopped selling 3G phones about the same time we started talking about the sunset. So, from a network point of view ‘nobody has a 3G phone anymore’ so they don’t expect any issue in withdrawal. It’s a simple way of saving cost, offering a better service with almost no inconvenience to the phone using public.

So, no real impact then? Generally, the Operators didn’t take IoT/M2M into account. There are a huge number of health, street furniture, payment devices, premises alarms and industrial controls out there that were built with 2G/3G or 3G only modems. So when 3G goes they will either fall back onto 2G or be ‘stranded’ i.e. lose their radio connection altogether.

This won’t be a big switch off. 3G estates will see a steady degradation of their estate through the year. As masts come up for maintenance the Operators will simply take the chance to switch off and remove the old 3G kit. So it will be a patchwork process as each network follows their own maintenance programme. If a 3G unit fails during the year it simply won’t be replaced. Presumably. at the end of the year there will be some sort of tidy up of the remaining 3G sites. One of the networks is thinking they might extend the process, perhaps all the way to 2024.

A good number of IoT/M2M estate owners have taken action. A lot haven’t. Mobius has upgraded all of our SIMs from 3G to 4G at our own expense (and are looking at doing the same again to 5G) as we never wanted to tell a customer they were using a ‘legacy’ SIM. But that’s only part of the story. For more information on 3G sunsetting in the UK and around the world and what you can do to minimise disruption please contact your regular contact or on [email protected]  or call us on 01530 511 180

Written by

Doug Gilmour - Managing Director