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End of an era as Three UK reveals 3G network shutdown plans

Three UK has announced the impending retirement of the technology that gave the firm its name – 3G mobile data.

The company, which was the UK’s first 100% 3G mobile network when it launched in 2003. It was also the first mobile network to offer video calling long before Apple introduced FaceTime, will turn off the 3G connectivity at the end of 2024 as it seeks to free-up spectrum.

There’s still some time to go for those without access to reliable 4G and 5G, as the switch-off is scheduled by the end of 2024. The free spectrum will be used to boster the existing 4G and 5G networks, as part of a two billion investment in the UK, the company says.

The company says that 5G usage is now more popular than 3G in the UK and, by the end of the year, will account for 35% of all usage.

However, it does mean those people still using mobile phones that are only capable of accessing 3G networks will have to upgrade their device, even though they are likely to be few and far between at this stage. The company has also said it will work with customers on old 3G-only devices. The press release doesn’t say whether the company will be changing its name to Five.

For old time’s sake, get this for a commercial from late 2003!

David Hennessy, Chief Technology Officer at Three UK said: “3G kick-started the mobile revolution – and launched Three into the UK 20 years ago – but the future is undoubtedly 5G. As we continue to roll out our ultrafast connectivity, by not only upgrading our existing 4G sites but building new 5G sites, we’ll be in a position to switch off our use of 3G across our network by the end of 2024.

“As the leader in 5G deployment and the fastest network as rated by Ookla, we are focused on delivering our goal of providing better connectivity, every day, for every customer.”

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