Insights Government and UK Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) publish joint statement on the sunsetting of 2G and 3G networks and ambition for Open RAN rollout as part of the Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Strategy


The Government has announced, together with UK MNOs, a joint ambition for 35% of the UK’s mobile network traffic to be carried over open and interoperable Radio Access Network (RAN) architectures by 2030.

The Government explains that open network architectures will play a key role in enhancing the security and resilience of the networks that the UK relies on to keep in touch and do business. Following recent decisions, the Government has made around the use of high-risk vendors and the introduction of the Telecommunications Security Act, the Government has set out its ambitions to build a more competitive, innovative, and diverse supply base for telecoms.

The Government recognises that MNOs are currently taking forward plans to introduce and expand their 5G networks, while also undertaking work to extend coverage to the most rural parts of the UK. Therefore this ambition is not a mandate, the Government says, and realising it will require partnership and collaboration between government, MNOs and the wider telecoms industry.

The Government says that it understands that in order to reach this ambition, there is more to be done to develop the performance, economics, and security of new RAN solutions so that they become competitive and viable for scale deployments. Therefore, joint activity will include: (i) investment in the research and development, deployment, and adoption of open network technologies; (ii) creating the right market environment to foster and encourage innovation; and (iii) international partnerships that bring together learning from across the global supply chain.

The Government has committed £250 million of investment to support and accelerate the work operators and suppliers are already taken to position the UK as a leader in the development of open and interoperable RAN technology.

Further, following a Diversification Taskforce’s recommendation, the Government has worked closely with industry to establish a date by which all public 2G and 3G networks in the UK will be switched off.

The Government says that this will free up spectrum for 5G and beyond. The move is also a key step in wider Government measures on introducing new vendors to the UK mobile networks, contributing to nationwide security and resilience.

The Government says that stablishing this date is necessary to provide clarity as to the likely commercial longevity of these technologies and will enable users to confidently plan for their future. Transitioning away from these technologies will improve network efficiency.

The MNOs have confirmed that they do not intend to offer 2G and 3G mobile networks past 2033 at the latest. Some individual operators will switch off their networks, particularly their 3G networks, earlier than this date, and will announce their own plans about when and how they intend to do this. To read the statement in full, click here.