Vodafone shuts down 3G network, with Telstra and Optus to follow

It's the end of an era for Vodafone's 3G network.

It's the end of an era for Vodafone's 3G network. Photo: Getty

Australia’s 3G network begins to shut down from later on Friday, with Vodafone the first of the telcos to switch off the service.

TPG Telecom, which owns Vodafone, TPG, iiNet, Internode, Lebara and Kogan, announced the decision to switch off its 3G service last year, giving customers 14 months to prepare to move to “superior” mobile technologies like 4G and 5G.

A Vodafone spokesperson said the telco’s priority was to ensure the handful of customers using the 3G service had 4G or 5G compatible devices.

“The retirement of older network technologies like 3G is part of an important industry-wide move to provide customers with better speed and greater functionality with today’s modern smartphones and devices,” they said.

“Vodafone’s 3G network currently carries less than 1 per cent of the network’s total mobile data traffic today, with the rest carried over 4G and 5G.

“We have sent more than two million messages to our customers to keep them updated about the 3G network closure and have put on extra staff in our retail stores and contact centres to help customers with this transition.”

Tech expert Trevor Long said the shutdown was possibly a risk for people with medical alarms.

“People with much older mobile phones, perhaps they were cheaper mobile phones, and critically, devices like medical alarms and even security alarms, EFTPOS machines,” he told Sky News Australia on Friday.

“The biggest risk is medical alarms.

“If you have elderly people in your life that have some sort of care alert alarm that will alert family or emergency responders, ring the manufacturer and find out if it’s 3G or 4G.”

Vodafone customers who continue to use 3G devices will still be able to make triple-zero calls on other 3G networks when in coverage. Wi-Fi internet access will also still possible.

Major telcos to follow 3G shutdown

Vodafone’s 3G shutdown will be followed by Telstra on June 30, 2024, and Optus from September next year.

The three telcos have spent the past few years expanding the reach of their respective 5G networks.

Vodafone boasts the best 5G availability, while Telstra was found to have the best 5G reach and 4G coverage experience in this year’s mobile experience awards compiled by Opensignal.

As the Vodafone spokesperson indicated, consumer interest in 3G service has fallen away because 4G and 5G products offer increased capacity, faster download speeds and less lag-time.

Telstra will repurpose the radio spectrum it uses for 3G to expand the capacity and reach of its 5G network.

The telco noted when 3G launched in 2003, Australians used mobile devices for much simpler purposes than we do today; namely, voice phone calls, texting and accessing very basic information online.

Optus will also repurpose its 3G technology to boost the capacity, speed and reliability of its 4G network and “rollout 5G to even more Australians”.

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