The sun is setting on 3G, signaling the beginning of a new era for mobile networks. Mobile operators are actively implementing plans to retire 3G, a network that made its debut in the UK two decades ago. As we bid farewell to 3G, which predates iconic technologies such as Skype, Facebook, and the iPhone, the landscape is evolving with the emergence of 4G and 5G, promising faster and more reliable services.

3G sunset

The decision to phase out 3G is not only driven by its outdated nature but also by the increasing cost of maintenance. By shutting down 3G, mobile networks can redirect their focus and investments towards the newer, more advanced networks, paving the way for enhanced services. Vodafone is set to close its 3G network this year, initiating trials in Basingstoke and Plymouth before a gradual region-by-region sunset starting in June and aiming for a complete switch-off in December. EE and Three have similar plans scheduled for the next year, while O2 is yet to disclose any switch-off plans.

For the estimated 5.5 million mobile customers relying on 2G or 3G (according to Ofcom), change is imminent. While some mobile networks will still support 2G for a transitional period as a backup, users will experience slower speeds. However, Three network users won’t even have this option, as the company does not offer 2G, leaving them without service.

The impact of the 3G sunset extends beyond mobile phones to various devices relying on the network for data transfer, including e-readers, GPS systems, alarms, and more. Businesses need to take stock of their inventory now and identify devices that may soon face disconnection.

The emergence of 5G

Moving beyond SIM cards, transitioning to the next generation involves more than a simple swap. Devices must be 4G and 5G compatible to utilise these advanced networks. Those with devices limited to 3G or earlier generations will need to upgrade to continue accessing mobile data.

Despite the potential inconvenience, upgrading to 5G-ready devices offers numerous advantages. The benefits extend beyond just faster networks; 5G, which can be up to a hundred times faster than 4G, opens up new possibilities. While the first 5G networks rolled out in 2019, we are still at the early stages of its potential.

5G brings increased capacity, effortlessly handling thousands of connected devices in a small area. It boasts ultra-low latency (that means a rapid response in network communications), ensuring minimal data transfer time. This translates to near-instant sharing, seamless video calls, and uninterrupted streaming and gaming. However, the real excitement lies in 5G’s transformative capabilities for industries, with some anticipating innovations that are yet to be imagined.

Industries such as manufacturing witness improved efficiency and safety with 5G. Video monitoring supported by 5G can detect machinery faults, and IoT sensors can measure environmental conditions. The low latency allows for rapid shutdown of machinery if necessary, enhancing safety.

The healthcare industry benefits from 5G advancements, enabling live video links for smart ambulances and supporting virtual reality for medical training. In logistics, 5G enhances supply chain transparency, providing real-time tracking of goods from ports to warehouses and improving inventory management.

As we bid farewell to 3G, the world anticipates the next chapter in technological evolution with 5G. With its potential to drive innovation and elevate IoT to new heights, the limits of what comes next remain uncertain, promising a future where seemingly impossible things become reality.

How can 5G benefit your business?

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