3G shutdown: what does it mean for mobile customers?

The 3G network has been switched off in 2021. Telefonica was the last of the three network operators to take UMTS antennas off the network. With this step, providers are turning their attention entirely to the successor generations 45 and 5G. What does the end of 3G mean for mobile customers?? Users who have only used the 3G network for mobile surfing are out of the Internet. The good news first: Only very few cell phone owners are still dependent on UMTS alone. Most users have automatically upgraded to an LTE tariff free of charge.

Why do the network operators switch off 3G?

The third-generation mobile communications standard has had its day. The 3G network can no longer cope with our ever-growing hunger for data. The technology is outdated, the data rates no longer meet the demands of digital life. The data transmission speed alone makes it clear that UMTS has been left behind. At peak speeds, a user surfs through the 3G network at 42.2 megabits per second. The fourth generation offers speeds of up to 500 megabits per second. And the LTE successor 5G promises peak speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second. But it will still be a few years before we can surf at this speed. This is how O2 wants to have the 5G network rolled out nationwide by 2025.

Network operators Vodafone and Telekom have taken down their last 3G antennas as of 30. Switched off in June 2021. O2 parent Telefonica followed suit at the end of the year. Your last UMTS antennas have been switched to the 30. December 2021 from the network. The network operators urgently need the mobile frequencies that have become free. They are installing LTE and 5G antennas on the bands to expand the availability of the two 3G successors.

What does this mean for mobile customers??

Most cell phone users will not even notice the 3G switch-off. As Vodafone reports, by the end of 2020 only two percent of customers were still surfing the mobile Internet exclusively via UMTS. Everyone else has been using LTE for a long time, or even the fifth generation. Or they use their cell phone in the classic way only for making calls and sending text messages. This does not require a mobile data connection – i.e., no access to the LTE network. Phone calls and short messages can also be sent via the 2G network. And that remains the same.

If you are still a mobile customer who only makes phone calls and sends text messages, you do not have to do anything. For these services, you can use the 2G network as usual, which has almost 100 percent coverage in Germany.

Customers who previously used a tariff limited to UMTS received new SIM cards from their providers in the run-up to the 3G switch-off. The exchange is free of charge. If you are unsure whether everything is working properly, it is best to contact your provider’s customer service. But this is only necessary if you use a tariff with data volume for mobile surfing and suddenly can no longer check Instagram or read the latest news on the go.

If your cell phone is already a bit outdated and you don’t know if it is ready for LTE reception at all, you can easily check this. If you can’t find the relevant information in the user manual, you can use the tools from Telekom and Vodafone, among others. You will need the IMEI number of your smartphone to check the model on the Telekom website. You can usually find them in the Settings under the menu Phone info. At Vodafone, the check also works without IMEI number. However, the exact model designation of your cell phone is required there.

Am I already surfing on the LTE network?

Your contract has already been converted and your smartphone is 4G-ready? Then it is very easy to check whether you surf in the LTE network. Just take a look at the status bar of your cell phone. Next to the reception bars there is an abbreviation. If you read 4G or 4G+ or LTE there, you are connected via the fourth-generation mobile communications standard. For a meaningful check, you should choose a location with usually good reception.

Tariff and cell phone are fit for LTE, yet you can’t surf on the go anymore? This may be due to the SIM card. You may have forgotten to replace the new SIM card? Or did your provider accidentally disregard you during the SIM change?. Just turn to him and order a new SIM card.

If you want to seize the opportunity and switch to a powerful mobile tariff with generous data volume, there is certainly the right offer for you in the LogiTel store.

A 5G smartphone in front of the shadow of a cell tower

© Vodafone

3G is finished: What will happen to the 2G network??

3G is switched off. To the amazement of many a user, however, network operators are sticking with the predecessor. Providers are leaving the 2G or GSM standard, which was launched in the early 1990s, completely on the network. For good reason: It is the safety net with which all end devices work, no matter how old they are. The 2G network is available everywhere in Germany. In an emergency, you can always use it to make an emergency call. That’s why the network operators are sticking to the second-generation mobile communications standard, while they have abandoned 3G. The UMTS network had never achieved anywhere near as good coverage.

Is it worth it for me to switch to the LTE network??

It depends on how you use your cell phone. If you not only want to surf at home via WLAN with your smartphone, but also want to share pictures, stream videos or play online games on the go, it is definitely worth upgrading. Because these options are only available to you via the 45 and 5G networks.

However, if you only use your cell phone to make calls and send the occasional text message, you will still be able to get by without access to the LTE network in the future. Basic functions are covered by the 2G network. However, you will still miss out on the brilliant voice quality offered by the Voice over LTE function. Of course, this is only available with a connection via the 4G network.

3G standard: The end of a revolutionary

The third-generation mobile communications standard started spreading in 2000. It revolutionized cell phone use: 3G made mobile surfing possible.

At its peak, the 3G mobile standard reached a transmission rate of 42 megabits per second. With this internet speed, the third generation has long since ceased to be competitive. Users surf the 4G network at up to 300 megabits per second. The 5G mobile communications standard is expected to reach up to 10 gigabits per second.

The German Federal Network Agency had placed conditions on the auction of 5G frequencies. Among other things, network operators are to ensure that 98 percent of German households will be able to surf the mobile Internet with at least 100 megabits per second by the end of 2022. Railways and roads should also be connected to the mobile network accordingly. That’s why network operators are stepping up the pace and rapidly expanding both the 4G and 5G networks. And with that, it’s also clear why there’s no more room for the 3G standard. It’s too slow. Network operators also need more spectrum to roll out 4G and 5G across the country. You will be free with the 3G shutdown.

Jenny Bernard has worked for many years as an editor for various local newspapers. At some point it was time for something new. Now it dives with much joy into the smart digital world to inform you and help you further.

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