Insights Ofcom sets out its expectations of mobile providers for 2G and 3G switch-off


Ofcom explains that the switch-off will happen over the next ten years and will support the roll-out of 4G and 5G networks, which offer faster and more reliable services for customers. While Ofcom does not have a formal role in the switch-off process, it wants to ensure that consumers are treated fairly and can continue to access the services they need.

Operators are making their own decisions on the timing and process of their switch-offs. Vodafone will begin its phased 3G switch off later this month, with EE and Three expected to switch off their 3G networks in 2024.

Most people now have 4G-capable devices and therefore won’t be affected. However, customers using older devices, including mobile handsets, telecare alarms and payment terminals, will need to replace or update them.

Ofcom has set out four key expectations of providers for this process:

  • minimising coverage impact: EE, Three and Vodafone have committed to offering an equivalent level of coverage after the 3G and subsequent 2G switch-off, with areas currently reliant on these networks being upgraded to 4G ahead of switch-off; Ofcom says that it expects Virgin Media O2 (which has yet to set a date for its 3G switch-off) to make a similar pledge; therefore, customers should not experience a reduction in coverage;
  • contractual information: where possible, mobile providers should explain in their contract information and summary when the service being purchased will no longer work because of the switch-off and that the customer will need a 4G-capable handset after that date;
  • customer communication and support: where customers need to replace or update their handset, Ofcom expects mobile operators to provide a minimum of three to six months’ notice of the steps they need to take and to communicate clearly using a range of methods to raise awareness; vulnerable customers will need to be given additional support, which might include offering discounts on replacement handsets; and
  • other services that rely on mobile networks: the switch-off will also impact a range of other devices, such as telecare alarms and payment terminals; these services will need a longer notice period; Ofcom expects mobile providers to make every effort to identify these services, helping to raise awareness so that relevant suppliers have sufficient time to update their devices and consumers do not lose access to vital services.

For a link to Ofcom’s guidance, click here.