Ofcom UK sets out expectations for 2G and 3G mobile switch-off

Ofcom has today published itsexpectations‘, how they want mobile operators – Three UK, Vodafone, EE (BT) and O2 (VMO2 / Virgin Media) – to move closer to phasing out legacy 2G and 3G mobile services. The aim is to ensure that users are “doing the right thing” and are not separated from vital services.

Currently, the government and all major mobile operators have already agreed until 2033. phasing out existing 2G and 3G signals ( here ) will free up bands of radio spectrum that can be used to further improve network coverage and mobile broadband speeds. modern 4G and 5G-based mobile communication networks. The shutdown will also reduce costs and energy consumption for operators.

However, contrary to what you might think, 3G services will be first, as older 2G signals remain useful as a low-power backup source and are still necessary in some rural areas, as well as for certain applications (such as many smart meters and other Internet of Things (IoT) ) / M2M services depend on 2G). In fact, most carriers expect to phase out 3G entirely by 2024. the end

The problem is that such a large-scale program will inevitably cause data problems for anyone still using a 3G device (they still exist, even if they’re a minority), especially if they don’t have the option to roll back. up to 2G.

Progressive 3G mobile plans

➤ Vodafone UK will start phasing out 3G this month and plans to end it by 2023. December.

➤ Three in the UK have announced that they will phase out our 3G network services over the next 2 years, switching off by 2024. the end

➤ EE (BT) will start switching customers off 3G this year, rather than shutting down the network, but plans to switch it off in 2024. at the beginning

➤ O2 (Virgin Media) has informed that it has not yet announced a public sunset date, but will stick to 2033. dates (O2 uses many 2G-based smart meters at home).

The regulator Ofcom has no formal role in the deactivation process itself, but they are of course keen to ensure that “consumers are treated fairly and can continue to use the services they need“. Today, they published a document that not only highlights the relevant regulatory requirements, but also outlines how they expect mobile service providers to deal with the shutdown of their services to ensure that consumer-centric goals are met. .

Ofcom’s key expectations are:

• Reducing the impact of coverage:

EE, Three and Vodafone have pledged to ensure they offer broadly equivalent levels of coverage after 3G and subsequent 2G switch-off, with areas currently reliant on 3G/2G upgraded to 4G before the switch-off. We welcome this and hope that Virgin Media O2 (which has yet to set a 3G switch-off date) will make a similar commitment once they have their plans in place. We expect operators to carry out a thorough coverage analysis before shutting down their networks to ensure that they meet these obligations and that customers are not affected by the loss of coverage.

• Contractual information about disabling services:

Mobile service providers should explain in their contract information and summary when the purchased service will no longer work on 3G and/or 2G networks (if known) and that after this date the customer will need a 4G capable phone.

• Communicating with customers and providing support:

When customers need to replace or upgrade their handset, we expect mobile service providers to give at least three to six months’ notice of the steps they need to take, and to communicate clearly and in a timely manner using a variety of methods to increase customer awareness. Vulnerable customers, particularly those facing financial difficulties, will need additional support, which may include discounts on replacement phones.

• Other services that depend on mobile networks:

The outage will also affect many other devices, such as remote monitoring alarms and payment terminals, not just customers using older phones. These services will require a longer notice period. Many also use roaming SIM cards and do not have direct customer relationships with UK mobile providers. We expect mobile service providers to make every effort to identify these services, share knowledge across the industry where possible, and help raise awareness so that relevant providers have sufficient time to update their devices and consumers do not lose access to vital services.

Most of this is common sense, so it’s important to consider that mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) will need to take the same approach as the change will affect their customers as well.

Selina Chadha, Ofcom’s director of communications, said:

“Over the next few years, older mobile networks will be phased out to make way for faster and more reliable services.

However, some people will need help updating their devices during this process. So we told mobile networks what they should do to ensure that support is available to those who need it.

That being said, such a large app may still catch some end users off guard and lead to complaints, but it will probably be a much bigger problem for 2G rollout than 3G.

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