Antoine Bechara
Antoine Bechara
February 9, 2022

 With 5G growing and becoming more accessible, telecommunications companies are focused on rolling it out. The side effect of this is that 3G and 3G phones are being phased out. 

The History of 3G 

When it comes to wireless mobile technology, 3G is the third generation. G denotes generation, and as the numbers climb higher, the more efficient and newer the technology is. The latest generation is 5G, and it is the one the communications industry is focused on. 

3G made its way to Australia in 2003. Initially, it serviced the metropolitan areas before expanding into rural communities. At the time, it introduced the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System. UMTS was at the core of the 3G network’s architecture. And, combined with CDMA and 2G technology, it delivered faster data rates, more radio band efficiency, and more secure encryption. 

4G is generally ten times faster than 3G. And, 5G is ten times faster than 4G. In some areas, it’s as much as 20 times faster. So, you can see why telecommunications companies are keen to run with 5G and eliminate 3G. It is the natural evolution of things in the industry. We have previously waved goodbye to 2G and GMS before it. The difference now is the speed with which our gadgets evolve. 

The End of the 3G Network in Australia 

The announcement that the 3G network in Australia will soon shut down has brought loads of questions. When will 3G phones become obsolete? Are 3G phones obsolete now? Can you still use 3G phones? What does the 3G phones shutdown mean for me? The end of this tech means the end of 3G phones.

Mobile networks have limited mobile spectrum quantity. Decommissioning 3G frees some of that up to use for higher speed network infrastructure. 5G is a reality for many Australians, and the number of 3G users is small in comparison. For telecommunications companies, the decommissioning of 3G only makes sense. The majority of areas have either 4G or 5G service. However, many rural areas are still reliant on 3G. Telstra has asserted that those areas will be upgraded to 4G before 3G their full shutdown in 2024. 

Shutting 3G down means that the mobile radio frequency can be repurposed for use by 4 and 5G technologies. This has happened naturally with the evolution of technology. 3G is used far less now because 4G is the norm and 5G is growing. So, it’s time to repurpose the 3G spectrum band for the good of the faster generations. This means that many devices will no longer have network access. And, those who do have access will likely face connectivity issues. 

The majority of modern smartphones have 4G capability, even if 3G was more commonplace at the time of its release. Your phone will continue working the same as it ever did if it has 4G capability. If your device is only 3G capable or is a 4G gadget without VoLTE capability, it will cease to work when the 3G shutdown happens. 

While the expectation is the shutdown will be complete by 2024, you should be looking to upgrade your 3G phone immediately. Whether you prefer an iPhone or an Android, it’s time to upgrade your gadgets. The end of the 3G era will not impact you unless you are still using a 3G only device. It isn’t simply your phone; it’s any device that you use with a 3G SIM Card, such as a tablet. If you’re not sure whether your phone is 3G or 4G, you can check right now. Your phone may tell you it’s connected to 3G, but that could be due to coverage. You need to see whether your device can switch to 4G. 

·       iPhone

This is a straightforward process. If your iPhone is 5 or later, it has 4G capability. If you have any older than the iPhone 5, you will need to upgrade.

·       Android

This is a bit more challenging as there are so many different manufacturers.

You may find it is your SIM that is incompatible with 4G rather than the phone itself. You can find out by opening your device’s mobile network settings. While every Android manufacturer is different, the mobile network section in your settings should provide you with the information you need. If there’s an option for 3G/4G, your phone will continue to serve you well. 

There is nothing you can do to change it if your phone is incompatible with 4G.

Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to upgrade your handset in that way. However, you can pick up a 4G phone for as little as $50. 

Telstra has already decommissioned many of its 3G networks, beginning in 2019 and expected to be completed by mid-2024. Optus expects its shutdown to be complete by 2027, but it could come as soon as 2025. Vodafone is behind its competitors. Its 5G rollout has been slower, so its shutdown is will come well after Optus’. So, if you want to hold onto your 3G mobile for a bit longer, Vodafone would make a safer network bet. 

Final Thoughts 

3G is soon to be a thing of the past, just like 2G before it. If your 3G phone is still working fine, it hasn’t yet been impacted by the 3G shutdowns. It is only a matter of time before you are, however, so it’s something to keep in mind as you shop for your next phone or tablet.

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