Thousands of mobile phones and smart meters to be rendered useless this year in huge 3G scrap

Mobile networks are switching off 3G this year
Mobile networks are switching off 3G this year -Credit:PA

Thousands of mobile phones will be rendered useless this year, as companies permanently pull the plug on the 3G network. Seven million smart meters are also estimated to become obsolete by the move, as telecom giants phase out an ageing system in favour of 4G and 5G technology.

3G was first introduced to the UK in the early 2000's, making it possible for mobile devices to access the internet. But an evolving 4G and 5G network since has enabled far faster mobile broadband and higher bandwidth data services.

EE and Vodafone have already completed their switch-off, meaning that customers of firms like BT Mobile, Voxi and 1p Mobile have also been affected. And thousands of customers on Three and O2 will start to lose their connections in the coming months according to the Sun, as well as those on giffgaff, Tesco Mobile, Sky and iD.

The Mirror reports that Three plans to shut off the 3G network before 2024 is over, while O2 say that they will start the procedure in 2025. All mobile networks are required to shut off their 3G connection by 2033, which will make all devices depending on the reception obsolete.

While most handsets have transitioned to 4G or 5G networks, those with older handsets will be unable to access data when 3G is culled. Customers on Three may also lose their ability to send and receive texts and make calls, as the network does not operate its own 2G backup network.

And it's not just mobile phones that will be hit by the move either, with the cross-party Public Accounts Committee estimating that around seven million smart meters could become non-functional when masts are decommissioned. However, the Data Communications Company which runs Britain's smart meter network has expressed less concern over the switch-off - noting how the majority of England and Wales' smart meters depend on the O2 cellular network.

If your phone solely operates on a 3G network, you may need to purchase a 4G or 5G device. Ofgem is considering a one-off increase to the energy price cap of up to £17 per year to help prevent suppliers from going bust amid spiralling consumer debts.

Three has confirmed that it will consider giving vulnerable parties a free handset upgrade on a case by case basis, while O2 has announced that it is assessing options and will decide on similar support when the switch off comes.