Vodafone to switch off its 3G network in Dublin over the coming weeks
Theo Wooster

Dubliners will lose access to 3G before the end of the summer as Vodafone redirects capacity to its 4G and 5G services. But what does this mean for customers?

Last year Vodafone announced it would be shutting down its entire 3G network to focus on its 4G and 5G services. 

In recent weeks it's already pulled the plug on its 3G service in Cork city and Limerick city. And it will shut down services in Dublin over the coming weeks before all remaining 3G services are pulled in 2025. 

Why is Vodafone shutting down its 3G service?   

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. And it also heralded the advent of camera phones. 

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as with all technology, advancements have been made in the mobile data sphere - like 4G and 5G, which have quickly superseded 3G over the past decade or so.

4G services offer better quality calls and texts, as well as faster mobile data speeds. And over the past few years, the even faster 5G has been rolled out. 

However, all these networks, including the earlier 2G, share the same ‘connectivity spectrum’. And with the growing use of 5G, and the development of 6G, mobile providers are looking to free up space on their networks to help improve speed and ease congestion. Indeed Vodafone has said that the speed of its 4G and 5G services in Limerick has increased by 20% since it closed its 3G service in the city. So hopefully Dubliners can look forward to a similar improvement in network speed over the coming weeks.

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 energy supplier.

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 the end of the year. 

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”.

However, there are people in Ireland who may be impacted by this announcement, and may be required to upgrade their phones. These 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. However Vodafone estimates this to be less than 2% of its customer base.

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. 

The telecoms regulator, Comreg, has also warned that some common mobile-connected devices may not work anymore, as they use a 3G signal to function. This includes some security alarms, retail point-of-sale machines, heating systems and e-readers.

You car could be affected too. Tesla has told its Irish customers that some of its older Model S vehicles will lose features such as roadside assistance to unlock their car remotely, navigation, and maps. The company has advised vehicle owners that they'll need to spend around €160 for the installation of a new 4G modem in their cars.

If you feel you'll be affected by Vodafone's decision to turn off its 3G service or are caring for a 'vulnerable' customer, you're advised to contact Vodafone.

In a note on its website it says: “We know that some customers will need extra support to get ready for 4G and our dedicated teams will be ensuring they are guided through the transition. For further advice, please get in touch with your local retail store.”

Are we going to get 6G?

At the end of 2022, 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, with less latency, 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 phones until at least 2030. Perhaps even later.

For now, 5G technology is still being rolled out across Ireland, and is the major focus as of now for the major network operators. 

Read more

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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