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Time’s up for 3G: UK network Three will switch off 3G in 2024

Rapid 5G uptake means the UK's first 100% 3G network will be 0% 3G in two years' time

Three UK mobile network logo Stuff

It’s game over for 3G on Three, as the UK’s OG 3G network has called time on its longest-running service. By 2024, the Three network will be entirely 4G and 5G-only.

According to the firm, switching off 3G will allow it to concentrate its cash on the 5G rollout, and improving coverage for existing 4G customers. 5G use has reportedly now exceeded 3G use country-wide, with 5G data set to account for a sizeable 35% of all mobile data usage by the end of the year. On average, Three’s customers use around 19GB per month – a 20% year-on-year jump. Is that because we’re actually allowed to leave the house now? Who’s to say.

When it first entered the scene in 2003 (on 03.03.03, naturally), Three was the first UK network to have a purely 3G offering. Once the off switch is thrown, it will have been providing a 3G service for over two decades. In that time it has racked up over 9.7 million customers, and carries 28% of the UK’s mobile data traffic. According to speed test expert Ookla, Three is also the UK’s fastest 5G network.

Who needs to upgrade

All current 4G handsets will be compatible with Three’s network, so you should be fine if you bought your phone in the past ten years. But what about those still rocking an old-school, 3G-only device? Three says it’ll be in touch with those customers to make sure they are able to stay connected when the switch-off happens. We say bravo to anyone that’s still using a decade-old handset.

Rival networks Vodafone and EE are planning to ‘scale back’ their 3G support by 2023, but have yet to set a date for service to end completely in favour of 4G and 5G. The phone industry in general has until 2033 to get its affairs in order, but that date also includes the older, slower 2G service.