Vodafone will formally switch off its 3G network in Ireland by the end of the year. This is to allow the operator to focus on its 4G and 5G networks. But what could this mean for customers across the country?
The introduction of 3G connectivity was synonymous with the smartphone revolution during the noughties, allowing people to have more power and communication potential in the palm of their hands.
However, as with all technology, advancements have been made in the mobile data sphere - like 4G and 5G, which have quickly superseded 3G over the past decade or so.
All these networks, including the earlier 2G, share the same ‘connectivity spectrum’. And with the growing use of 5G, and the rapid development of 6G, mobile providers are looking to free up space on their networks for other forms of connectivity.
Last year Vodafone phone announced it was planning to switch off its 3G network and in February of this year it began the process on a phased basis. It intends to fully switch off its 3G network by the end of the year.
Why 3G and not 2G?
You may be asking yourself, why not switch off the more primitive 2G network instead?
The reason for keeping 2G is that it is a valuable backstop network that uses low amounts of energy. In the event that other forms of connection fail, 2G will be used to allow people to continue communicating using calls and SMS messages.
Additionally, 2G networks are used for many hidden purposes across society, that you may not realise.
For example, smart meters use 2G technology to send your consumption information to your provider.
Also, compared to its newer counterparts, 3G is more energy intensive for the providers to operate. 5G in particular uses much less electricity, making it more environmentally friendly and cheaper to operate.
It is for these reasons that Vodafone is not alone in turning off its 3G network. For example, Three has stated its plans to phase out 3G in Ireland by 2024.
How will it affect me?
If you've upgraded to a new mobile phone within the last ten years or so, this announcement will likely have no impact on your connectivity as your phone will have access to 4G or even 5G.
4G networks were rolled out in Ireland in 2013 and 2014, and Vodafone now claims to “have over 99% 4G population coverage”.
4G services offer better quality calls and texts, as well as faster mobile data speeds. And over the past three years or so, the even faster 5G has been rolled out.
However, there are people in Ireland who may be impacted by this announcement, and may be required to upgrade their phones.
These people are people who haven't changed their phones in a long time and are likely to be in more marginalised groups, such as the elderly and those in poverty.
If your phone is not 4G or 5G enabled, you'll still be able to send and receive calls and texts, but your access to mobile data will be removed.
Vodafone CEO Anne O’Leary assured customers that:
“We are communicating the beginning of this phased programme as early as possible so customers can stay connected while this transition takes place. This is just the start of an extensive communication campaign that will ensure that any customers that need guidance, are supported by our customer teams.”
Are we going to get 6G?
At the end of last year, the EU announced a series of funding for studies into the implementation of 6G technologies across the bloc.
6G will almost certainly be much faster, and is intended to support more data-intensive activities such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
However, there is currently no standard definition of what 6G constitutes, and it’s unlikely to make an appearance on your phone until at least 2025. Perhaps much later.
For now, 5G technology is still being rolled out and taken up across Ireland, and is the major focus as of now for the major network operators.
Virtual mobile network operator GoMo recently announced plans to offer 5G in Ireland. You can read more about their plans here.
Looking to stream content on your mobile phone? Check out our definitive guide to all the best streaming services available to Irish consumers.
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