15 Dec 2017

Vodafone switch off its 3G network in January 2020

Vodafone has officially announced that the provider will disable its 3G (UMTS) network in the Netherlands in January 2020. From then on, only the 2G (GSM) and the 4G (LTE) network will be available. For customers, disconnection from the 3G network has little to no impact for telephone communication.

While more and more countries are saying goodbye to the old GSM (2G) networks that have been active since the mid-90s, Vodafone is going slightly against the power by switching off the 3G (UMTS) network. The UMTS network of Vodafone has been active since 2004. Vodafone has announced that the provider will switch off its 3G network in the Netherlands in January 2020.

By switching off 3G instead of 2G, all mobile phones and smartphones will continue to work. All phones and smartphones with 3G support also have 2G support. By switching off the 3G network, these devices can switch back to 2G or switch to 4G if the support is present in the device. In this way, all customers will always be accessible.

Smart but also necessary choice
If Vodafone had opted to switch off the 2G network, this would have had greater consequences. For example, a recent device such as the new Nokia 3310 has only 2G support (and no 3G and 4G support). When Vodafone said goodbye to 2G, this device would not have worked after 2020.

Other Dutch providers may make a different decision and will decide at a later time that the 2G network will be shut down. The main reason Vodafone does not switch off its 2G network is because a lot of so-called 'machine-to-machine communication' (M2M) is still being placed on Vodafone's 2G network. Most smart energy meters installed in the houses in the Netherlands are connected to Vodafone's mobile network via a 2G connection. All TomTom navigation systems with HD Traffic also have a 2G connection to the Vodafone network. If Vodafone turned off the 2G network, all these devices would have to be replaced.

Little impact
The consequences of shutting down the 3G network for Vodafone customers will not be too big. Only customers who have a device with only 2G and 3G support will notice consequences. The 2G network is not really suitable for mobile internet anymore.Customers who now use mobile phones with a 3G device must purchase a new smartphone with 4G support before 2020 in order to stay mobile on the internet after January 2020. For customers who only make calls and text messages, the shutdown of the 3G network has no consequences. The 2G network was specifically designed in the 90s to be used for calling and texting.

Vodafone has also announced that the coverage of the 4G network will be further expanded in the coming period to ensure that the coverage is as good as the 2G and the 3G network combined. In this way, it must be prevented that the disconnection of the 3G network will result in coverage problems.

Other providers say goodbye to 2G
Other providers in the Netherlands will probably choose to switch off the 2G network in due course. To keep a 2G network in the air in a good way requires a lot of frequency spectrum that can be used better and more efficiently for 3G or 4G networks. Vodafone can not say goodbye to the 2G network because of all M2M communication, other providers will do this in order to gain more capacity for 4G networks.When other providers are going to do this, it is not yet certain, but will also take place after 2020 at the earliest.