MILLIONS will start to notice a big change to their mobile phones as providers start switching off key services.
Operators have confirmed to the Government that they will switch off their 2G and 3G networks by 2033 at the latest.
The change will support the roll-out of the 4G and 5G networks, which are faster and more reliable for users.
Ofcom has today set what it expects providers to do to support customers through the change.
It says operators should explain in customers’ contracts that 2G and 3G services will be coming to an end, and that they will need to purchase a 4G-capable device at a later date.
The regulator also said customers who need to replace or update a handset will need at least three to six months’ notice.
Hard-up customers will also need to be given additional support, which could include discounts on replacement handsets, Ofcom said.
Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said it was positive that Ofcom had set out its expectations.
She said: “Mobile operators must support consumers through the switch off. In particular, they should help vulnerable customers find the best option for them in the switch off – as they may have older handsets or be unable to afford an upgrade to a 4G or 5G capable device.”
A number of providers have already confirmed that they will start pulling the plug from this month.
Vodafone is aiming to decommission all its UK 3G services by the end of the year.
It’s kicking off the gradual process starting with Plymouth and Basingstoke.
The tech giant has already said customers who are registered as financially vulnerable could be eligible for a free handset.
Vodafone customers concerned about the switch can call a dedicated team on 191 for free from their handset.
Three started switching off its 3G services last year.
EE will also phase out the network throughout the year and is set to shut it down entirely sometime in the early part of 2024.
O2 has not confirmed final details for its 3G shutdown, but it is expected to be no later than 2025.
A quarter of mobile users claim they use 3G regularly, according to research by USwitch.
And one in 14 say they rely on it entirely around their area.
Network providers have to shutdown 3G to make room for the newer, more advanced stuff.
Vodafone, EE and Three have indicated that 2G will still be acting as a safety network for people who may not have access to faster speeds after 3G is gone.
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