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3G network shutdown in Australia: What you need to know
Out with the old.
Now that we're moving to 5G networks, the likes of Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone have started rolling back 3G coverage. 3G coverage will still be around until 2024, but much like 2G, will eventually be phased out entirely.
Why are telcos shutting down 3G networks?
Mobile networks rely on radio frequencies or "spectrum", which is a finite resource.
Spectrum is grouped in bands - 850Mhz or 2100Mhz - with different frequencies being better suited for different tasks. The higher the frequency, the faster the connection, but the smaller the coverage.
The amount of spectrum available to use is determined by the physics of radio waves. Telcos buy access to "lots" of spectrum, which are then used to build networks. Once a band is full, no more can be added.
Because of this physical limitation, telcos have to work out how to best use their spectrum holdings. If a provider gets rid of their 3G coverage on a certain band, it can use it for faster, more efficient 4G or 5G coverage.
Think of spectrum like a farm. You can change how you use your land, but you can't plant outside your property.
When will 3G networks be shut down?
Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone have already shut down parts of their 3G networks.
Telstra has confirmed it will offer 3G services until June 2024. Similarly, Vodafone has said it will phase out 3G by the middle of 2024, but hasn't offered a concrete date.
Optus is the only telco that hasn't provided an indication of how long it will offer 3G coverage.
Will the 3G shutdown impact me?
By and large, the 3G shutdown should only impact you if you still have a 3G-only phone. If that is the case, you will eventually need to upgrade to a phone with 4G connectivity.
Given 3G will still be around until 2024, there's no rush to do this. Just make sure your next phone has 4G, but these days, it's very hard to find one that doesn't.
There are some cases where the 3G shutdown could reduce coverage, but Telstra, for example, has committed to ensuring all 3G-only areas have 4G by the time it shutters its older network.
Optus 3G shutdown
Optus has ended 3G services on the 2100MHz spectrum, but still has 3G on the 900Mhz spectrum. Optus has yet to provide a timeline for when it will axe 3G entirely. When this happens, all Optus MVNOs including amaysim, Circles.Life, and gomo will lose 3G connectivity too.
Vodafone 3G shutdown
Vodafone phased 3G connectivity on its 2100MHz spectrum over the course of 2019. It still has 3G connectivity on the 900MHz spectrum, however. Vodafone hasn't got a set end date for when 3G will be switched off entirely, but this will happen by the middle of 2024. Once again, Vodafone-powered providers such as iiNet, TPG, and Kogan Mobile will lose 3G connectivity because of this too.