With the 2G and 3G sunset already underway globally, massive changes are expected—and many businesses and consumers are unaware of what impact this will have on them and their connected lives.

Running both networks became costly and inefficient to maintain as the capabilities of 4G and 5G emerged, so operators decided to turn off both generations to free up more bandwidth and frequency spectrum (known as spectrum farming) for use in 5G and other technologies such as NB-IoT (Narrow Band).

3G to turn off before 2G Networks

2G/3G had been preferred technologies for decades because of their low power, longer range and voice capabilities—a feature 4G struggled with early on. But with 4G now able to handle voice and data traffic, and 2G being the more attractive option to support most IoT applications, 3G no longer had much to add. Critical IoT applications that run on 3G such as CCTV will need to switch to a future-proof connectivity solution—quickly.
It might be old, but 2G is tried and tested for low power IoT applications that don’t require high bandwidth or large amounts of data, and with the best coverage of all generations, it’s a low-cost option to run across large deployments, in remote locations, making it perfect for sensors, tracking, and monitoring. In fact, the UK government’s national smart meter roll-out still largely depends on 2G.

What does this mean for you and your business?

Your devices that still rely on 2G and 3G connectivity to operate will cease to function.
A large per cent of network connections are still made by 2G and 3G devices in the UK, It’s in vehicle information systems, or telematics: most BMWs had a 2G system for their in-vehicle connectivity.

Many older phones, early iPads, older Kindles, wearables and alarm systems — simply won’t be able to connect to cellular data networks anymore.

Are you in retail?

Many Epos devices and payment terminals will no longer be able to process payments.

Impact of safety and critical services:

Certain medical devices (fall detectors and communicators), fire and smoke alarms, older tablets, smart watches, vehicle emergency and SOS buttons, home security systems, E-readers (Kindles/Chromebooks) and some older Tesla vehicles, along with marine monitoring and safety equipment may be using 3G network services.

In addition, older hardware like legacy cell phones and GPS tracking systems rely on the 3G spectrum. (Fleet operators and logistics companies still use 3G technology for vehicle telemetry and tracking.)

Will the 2G/3G sunset happen?

In the past, 2G and 3G offered a reliable way to keep devices connected, but that technology is decades old, and there are better options available now. The sunset will force the adoption of newer tech like 4G and 5G, pushing forward a new generation of IoT that will help many industries become more efficient, providing plenty of benefits to the end user.

The official date agreed by all UK mobile network operators is to retire 2G and 3G by 2033, but some aren’t waiting around until then, with Vodafone and EE already announcing 3G will close in 2023.

The sunset is only a concern if you are unprepared

If you’re thinking you have time before the sunset is complete, officially speaking, operators only need to give you two to three months warning. And there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of IoT devices still operating on 2G and 3G. You will need help migrating them all.

You don’t want to suddenly find out the devices you rely on aren’t working. Rest assured you can look to us for guidance, and we’ll be supporting you all the way.

Keep in mind, sunset dates vary from carrier to carrier globally, with some already switching off their services.
First responders use 3G for communications, and 3G is used in critical healthcare for patient monitoring and mobile personal emergency response.

What should you consider regarding the 3G Switch-Off?

Given how long it will take to conduct an audit and decide what to do with deployed legacy devices and solutions, it makes sense to plan and act now for optimal digital transformation.

Many of these devices have been connected for years, and often in remote places, so have effectively been out of scope as a priority project to implement as the cost of change was prohibitive. The reality is that there is no longer a choice and businesses need to swap out these legacy devices and connectivity solutions or navigate the darkness that follows a sunset by going offline when the switch off occurs.
The absolute necessity to visit each site to swap out the devices bring the right connectivity solution into focus and therefore represents an opportunity to invest in the best solution for the future now by partnering with industry experts to help you make the transition cost effectively and with minimal business impact.

Fit for purpose, future-fit

One thing to keep in mind is not all devices will need or make use of the speedier 4G and 5G options.

That’s where tech like LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) becomes an option – which, like the name suggests requires Low Power to operate and can be powered for years without having to exchange a battery.

More importantly, businesses should be looking to “future proof” their IT infrastructure, so when the latest generations inevitably have to sunset too, they’re still protected. Tech that’s currently available is scalable when the right solution is deployed.

Navigating the 2G and 3G sunset

It’s not always clear or obvious what should be done when migrating services, so making it a seamless transition could be daunting. With the right partner to guide you, you’ll be able to leave the time-consuming work with them, while you focus on your core business. You can trust our IoT and mobile-only expert vendors to handle these 2G and 3G migrations with ease.

Keen on getting your 2G and 3G migrations going?

Speak to your Britannic team and they’ll walk you through the process from start to finish.

Let's talk about Network migration