British technology communications company Vodafone has announced that it will begin the retirement of its legacy 3G network next year as part of the company’s strategy to “improve the 4G and 5G experience for its customers.”
According to the U.K.-based multinational, the repurposing of the 3G spectrum comes after 17 years and nearly 500 billion minutes of calls following the first launch of the cellular technology in November 2004. But it has become necessary to begin the switch-off due to a significant drop in data used on the 3G network, from 30% in 2016 to less than 4% today, the report noted.
To ensure customers stay connected in the next year, and to inform, advise and guide users on the upcoming changes, Vodafone will be launching an awareness campaign starting this month.
“During the campaign, we’ll be asking customers not just to make sure that their phone supports 4G and 4G Calling, but also to check in on friends and family,” Vodafone’s U.K. CEO, Ahmed Essam Shelbaya, said in a statement.
Essam added: “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.”
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The campaign will be targeting an estimated two million people who currently rely on 3G handsets across all U.K.’s mobile networks and will be forced to upgrade their handsets when the retirement process begins.
But the move is not just an upgrade to the latest generation of cellular network technology. According to Vodafone, switching from 3G to a higher cellular technology will play a key role in “the strategy to reach Net Zero by 2027 since 5G is 10 times more energy-efficient than 3G in terms of equipment,” the report stated.
As of June 2021, Vodafone has rolled out 5G services in over 360 locations across Europe – 124 in the U.K. and 240 across Germany, Spain, Italy, and Ireland – after switching on its first 5G networks two years prior in July 2019.
Further reading: EU Court of Auditors Concerned Over Security, Delays on 5G
The 3G retirement announcement comes on the heels of Vodafone switching on the U.K.’s first 5G OpenRAN site to carry live 5G traffic earlier this month.
Overall, the company has committed to a total of 2,500 5G and 4G OpenRAN sites across the country and has chosen Bath as the location for the first site.
According to the press release, this switch-on will contribute to the Government’s plans to accelerate the development of the OpenRAN ecosystem and is the first step in delivering OpenRAN at scale for the country.