Vodafone will begin retiring its 3G network in 2023 as part of a network modernisation programme to improve the 4G and 5G experience for all customers. The programme, which will see 3G coverage gradually phased out and replaced by strengthened 4G and 5G services, will mean customers across more parts of the UK can access more reliable connectivity through the Vodafone network.
Retiring 3G, after 17 years and nearly 500 billion minutes of calls, is a key part of Vodafone’s strategy to give customers the most reliable network experience. Today, less than 4% of the data used on Vodafone’s network travels on 3G, in comparison to more than 30% in 2016.
Vodafone will begin a campaign of communication to customers today, and will continue to share information, advice and guidance to customers to ensure they can stay connected during the change next year.
Vodafone’s UK CEO, Ahmed Essam, said: “We’re building the UK’s most reliable mobile network, and focusing on the technologies that best connect our customers and have the least impact on the environment. 3G has connected so many customers over the last 17 years, but the future is 4G and 5G.
“We’re going to be focused on giving customers a faster and more reliable mobile experience, and minimising our impact on the environment by taking away a layer of our network that uses inefficient equipment.
“We start communicating to customers about this today – our goal is for everyone to stay connected, and we’ll be doing everything we can to make sure that’s the case. During the campaign, we’ll be asking customers not just to make sure that their own phone supports 4G and 4G Calling, but also to check in on friends and family.
“There are people who aren’t confident with technology, and we want to ensure everyone is getting the help that they need, so that no one is left behind.”
The retirement of Vodafone’s 3G network is also an important part of the strategy to reach Net Zero by 2027, with modern 5G networks more than 10 times as energy efficient as old 3G equipment.
To ensure customers across the UK understand what is happening and how they can stay connected, Vodafone is initiating a year-long communications campaign to help those who may need additional support. As part of the campaign, Vodafone will encourage its more tech-savvy customers to check in on friends and family. Vodafone is also partnering with The Good Things Foundation, and other third parties, to ensure the campaign reaches the most vulnerable consumers.
Helen Milner OBE, Group Chief Executive at Good Things Foundation, said: “We support Vodafone with this important campaign to ensure that every consumer can stay connected during the change. Access to a digital connection is vital, especially for the most vulnerable people in our society.
“With the move away from 3G, people risk being disconnected, locked out and left behind. That’s why we’re so pleased to be working with Vodafone to ensure as many people as possible continue to have the essential digital access they need.”
The pandemic demonstrated the importance of technology that keeps people connected. Healthcare, education, and the economy all depend on people across the UK having a reliable data connection. This transition to 4G and 5G for every Vodafone customer is a vital part of ensuring everyone has the digital access they need.
To help ensure a smooth transition to 4G and 5G, Vodafone UK will use the Vodafone Group’s experience in retiring 3G networks, with successful programmes already carried out in Germany and Italy.