UK Government mandates phase-out of 2G and 3G technologies by 2033
The UK Government is to phase out 2G and 3G mobile networks by 2033 to free up the radio waves required for the mass rollout of 5G and any subsequent technologies.
Digital secretary Nadine Dorries said the government had agreed with network operators Vodafone, EE, Virgin Media O2 and Three that 2033 will be the final cut-off date for 2G and 3G but that each would announce its own wind-down timeline in due course.
“5G technology is already revolutionising people’s lives and businesses - connecting people across the UK with faster mobile data and making businesses more productive,” Dorries said.
“Today we are announcing a further £50m to put the UK at the forefront of mobile connectivity and to make sure our telecoms networks are safe and secure now and in the future.”
In December last year the government unveiled its 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy, which outlined an ambition to have “the majority of the UK population to be covered by a 5G signal by 2027 so that the entire country can benefit from its social and economic advantages”.
Then digital secretary Oliver Dowden said at the time it was also vital that the public has confidence in the “security and resilience of the infrastructure that underpins” 5G, which is why the government was taking steps to remove all Huawei equipment from the network by 2027 too.
UK mobile providers have been banned from using equipment made by Huawei since last summer over fears that the Chinese mobile company’s technology could pose a security risk.
The US in particular has raised concerns that because Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei has a military background and is a member of the Communist Party the company’s 5G equipment could be used by China for spying purposes.
The US banned firms from doing business with Huawei and urged its allies to follow suit. The UK government, which is continuing to pursue a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, joined the governments of Australia and New Zealand in complying.
Dorries timed the announcement of the 2G and 3G phase-out to coincide with a trip to Washington and New York where she and US Secretary for Commerce Gina Raimondo will discuss transatlantic data policy.
Hamish MacLeod, director of trade association Mobile UK, welcomed the clarity on the future of mobile networks, pointing out that maintaining 2G and 3G had prevented new 5G suppliers from entering the market as they currently have to offer the older services too.
“Switching off 2G and 3G will enable operators to transition fully to more energy efficient and high-capacity networks to the benefit of customers,” he said.