UK mobile signal warning – check your phone now or risk being ‘left behind’

Mobile phone owners up and down the UK are being warned to check to see if their devices will be affected by a big change that’s underway on the nation’s mobile networks.

Because we are now in the era of 5G and 4G networks that were built to cope with an ever growing number of smartphones demanding precious network waves for online services, the UK’s telecoms operators are in the process of switching off their old 3G networks.

Vodafone and EE both announced this week that they have already completely turned off their 3G signals in the UK. It means if you have an older or simpler mobile phone that doesn’t have 4G or 5G compatibility, you might be unable to make calls, send text messages, or access the internet on your device.

“While Vodafone and EE are both reporting their 3G switch-off now, other mobile phone providers will also soon be following suit, switching off 3G over the next couple of years,” a spokesperson from price comparison service said.

“The vast majority of phone users won’t need to do anything, but it is important to be aware this change is taking place, particularly for those with older relatives, who may rely on older handsets.”

You may also be affected if you have a 4G phone but are still only paying for an older 3G-only data plan. If you aren’t sure, you can check by asking your mobile network provider. Uswitch said it recently found 2.7 million people in the UK were not sure if this change affected them. Those over 75 were most likely to be in this situation.

“Mobile phone users should check device settings and make sure their phone is 4G or 5G ready, as well as ensuring they have the latest software and security updates,” the spokesperson said. “It’s important that no one is left behind so it’s worth checking in with friends and relatives too in case they have older devices.”

Mobile network operators are turning off their old 3G services to free up more network space for customers on 4G and 5G. Operators have to purchase chunks of airwaves every few years and don’t have unlimited resources – and because 3G launched way back in 2003, it’s so old that hardly any modern phones still use it, instead accessing the internet and apps using 4G or 5G signals.

O2 plans to switch its 3G signal off in 2025, while Three plans to do it by the end of this year.

The old 2G network, first switched on way back in 1991, is still going in the UK. It can still be used for phone calls on any mobile phone, so even if your device is a 3G model and can’t access the internet now, you should still be able to make calls.

Most smartphones also have Wi-Fi access built in, so you can still connect to your home network to access data services such as the internet browser or WhatsApp.


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