Article | 27 June 2022

What the 3G shutdown means for global organisations

Stop 3g
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Written by
Elvin Lim, Global Head of Product and Applications Singapore

The pace of technological change is relentless. For individuals of a certain age, it seems like only yesterday the familiar sound of the dial-up modem could be regularly heard as you began the frustratingly slow process of getting online. Since then, it’s been nonstop – from copper lines to high-speed fibre, from early cellular technologies to LTE and 5G.

So, it comes as no surprise that, with more businesses and public organisations picking on the benefits of LTE/5G connectivity, 3G (and previous generations) are being retired by network operators around the world.

And, while it’s true that most organisations already moved on years ago, there are still several use cases where 3G networks continue to be used. In particular, where IoT solutions don’t necessarily require a lot of bandwidth or high levels of performance, 2G and 3G have proven more than adequate. This encompasses in-vehicle telematics systems, intelligent sensors, and emergency call boxes, among others. And alongside 2G and 3G sunsets, mobile network operators are also deploying low bandwidth protocols to accommodate IoT specific use cases such as NB-IoT and LTE-M.

But the end is near

Actually, it’s well underway. By the end of 2022, all major US operators will end their support for 2G and 3G networks. In Europe, Vodafone led the way with a 3G shutdown in the Netherlands in 2020. In Germany, Telefónica did it in 2021, one year earlier than planned, together with Telekom Deustschland. And most networks are in the same boat. To name a few:

AustraliaTelstraMid 2024
ArgentinaClaroDecember 2025
BrazilClaroDecember 2025
ChinaChina Mobile2020
JapanNTT DOCOMOMarch 2026
MalaysiaVarious operators2021
MexicoTelcelDecember 2026
Puerto RicoClaroDecember 2026
South AfricaMobile Telephone NetworksDecember 2024
SpainVarious operatorsDecember 2025
SwitzerlandSwisscomDecember 2025
UKVarious operatorsDec 22-2026

In practical terms, this means that all wireless connections leveraging 2G or 3G networks will no longer work after the respective cutoff dates. In the US, this will affect approximately nine percent of connections, and this number varies depending on the region.

But there’s no need to fear this transition. Saying goodbye to 3G means freeing enough spectrum to better enable LTE/5G-based services, opening new opportunities for businesses as they adopt wireless technologies for enterprise use:

  • Better performance

4G and 5G routers are able to support higher bandwidth needs and faster data speeds. In turn, this can deliver productivity gains thanks to lower jitter and packet loss.

  • Improved reliability

With LTE/5G offering faster data transmission speeds than 3G networks, it becomes a more reliable internet connection when larger amounts of data need to be accessed.

  • Better compatibility

In order to ensure that your network supports the latest technologies, upgrading from 3G helps future-proof your connectivity. This is also because modern-day apps are designed to operate over 4G/LTE instead of legacy 3G and 2G technologies. And while some hardware might still support previous generations, new firmware, future updates, and apps most likely won’t.

There’s no turning back

Although 3G networks are still employed for several use cases, the technology has had its day. In addition, network carriers have to licence the frequencies that these networks operate on - often at a significant cost - so the lesser capabilities of 3G means that continuing these networks no longer makes sense. For example, 5G is 23 times more efficient than 2G.

So this so-called 3G sunset can only bring modern enterprises an opportunity to look forward. The flexibility, speed, and coverage of wireless LTE/5G networks are already enabling and improving all sorts of operations, including emergency responders, construction and engineering teams, and even crews of marine vessels. All use cases which are very familiar to Blue Wireless, as we help more global enterprises worldwide in their transition to wireless connectivity.

Do you wish to discuss your use case with us? Let’s talk.

Talk to

Elvin Lim, Global Head of Product and Applications

Let's explore the opportunities of wireless connectivity for your business. Contact us to get your wireless journey started.

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