Mobile network operators including Vodafone, EE and Three have begun phasing out 3G mobile services across the UK.

In 2021, the government made an agreement with the 'Big Four' mobile network operators - Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three that 3G and 2G mobile services will be phased out by 2033.

The 3G (and ultimately 2G) services - which have been used since 2003 to deliver calls, texts and data - are being switched off to make room for faster and more reliable 5G networks.

Which? said the switch-off could be problematic for customers using older mobile devices and services that rely on these networks and could mean people will need to buy new phones and/or Sim cards. 

When will 3G and 2G services end on UK mobile networks?

Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three have agreed 3G and 2G mobile services will be phased out by 2033.

However, the providers are free to choose when they end 3G and 2G services, within that timeframe.  


According to Which? Vodafone started piloting its 3G switch-off in February and recently confirmed its plans to start the remainder of the phase-out from June 2023.

It confirmed its 2G network will remain in place for calls and texts.

For full details visit Vodafone's website. 


Which? said EE will also phase out 3G services throughout 2023, with the network then closing in early 2024. 

Its 2G services will be switched off 'later in the decade'.

More details are available from the EE website. 


Three expects to have closed its 3G service by the end of 2024 according to Which?.

Three never had a 2G network as it launched as the UK's first 100% 3G network.

Visit the Three website for more.

County Times: Three expects to have its 3G service closed by the end of 2024.Three expects to have its 3G service closed by the end of 2024. (Image: PA)


O2 has not specifically announced when it will close down 3G and 2G services, or whether it'll be before the agreed date of 2033.

Which? said: "As it stands, O2 will be the only provider still offering 3G network services by 2025."

Other networks

Virtual networks, such as Giffgaff, Tesco Mobile and Smarty, piggyback off one of the 'Big Four' networks.

This means their 3G services will end in line with the parent network.

Virtual networks set to be affected by the 3G switch-off are: 

  • BT
  • Plusnet
  • Utility Warehouse
  • Giffgaff
  • Sky
  • Tesco Mobile
  • iD
  • Smarty
  • Asda Mobile
  • Lebara
  • Talkmobile
  • Virgin Media
  • Voxi

Why are 3G services being phased out?

The number of people using 5G handsets quadrupled in 2021 according to Which?.

The switch-off of 3G and 2G will allow providers more room to operate 5G services. 

County Times: 3G services are being switched off to make room for 5G.3G services are being switched off to make room for 5G. (Image: PA)

Additionally, there is an increased cost to simultaneously operating the two types of network required to support 2G/3G and 4G/5G services, which is encouraging providers to end 2G and 3G.

The money saved from these closures can then be invested in making improvements to the 4G/5G network.  

How do I know if my phone is 4G compatible?

For most phone users, nothing will need to change provided your phone supports 4G services.

However, some older phones will no longer be able to connect to a network to use data. 

If you have an older phone, your options are to upgrade the device to one that supports 4G and 5G, or buy a SIM for a network that still supports 3G when it's cut off by your current provider.

Your mobile provider should contact you before you lose access to 3G data. 

You can search online to see if your phone is 4G compatible. 

Just search for the make and model, or find the phone on the manufacturer website, to see if the specifications include 4G, or LTE.

Alternatively, you can check the settings on your phone.

On Android: Settings > Connections > Mobile networks > Network mode.

If you're using a dual-Sim phone, tap the active Sim.

iPhone: Settings > General > Cellular.

Windows phones: Settings > Cellular + Sim > Highest connection speeds. 

On this screen you should see a setting that reads 'Preferred network type' or similar.

Tap this, and if you can see 4G, or LTE, referenced as one of the types, your phone is 4G compatible.

County Times: You can check on your phone if it is 4G compatible. You can check on your phone if it is 4G compatible. (Image: PA)

Is the rest of the world switching off 3G and 2G?

The USA has already switched off all 3G networks, and other countries all over the world will be following suit over time.

Which? said: "If you are travelling somewhere that has already started switching off its 3G services, you might have issues accessing roaming data.

"If you have an older phone, it may be impossible to make calls, send texts or access data without using wi-fi."

Will other devices be affected by the 3G switch-off?

3G networks are used by more than just phones.

It's not just phones that use 3G, other devices including care and security alarms and payment terminals, may also operate using the network.

Which? said: "If you have any of these devices, it may need to be upgraded to make sure it still works when the 3G networks are switched off.

"Check with your device supplier or service provider to find out if this will be a problem and what you need to do."