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Embracing the future: The sunset of 3G and the rise of 5G


In the fast-paced world of technology, change is the only constant. The year 2033 marks a significant milestone as the UK's 3G network begins its phase-out, with major mobile network providers setting their own dates for the switch-off. Already, we've seen Vodafone bid farewell to its 3G networks in Plymouth and Basingstoke, with Hull and Oxford following suit, and Glasgow soon to join the ranks. As Three UK's CTO David Hennessy aptly puts it, "the future is undoubtedly 5G" after 3G kicked off the mobile revolution. The end of 3G is inevitable.


What's crucial now is for businesses to prepare for the opportunities presented by the fifth generation of mobile connectivity. With EE aiming to provide UK-wide 5G coverage by 2028 and 5G networks set to reach over 40% of the global population by 2024, the significance of 5G in the future of connectivity cannot be overstated. Understanding the benefits of integrating 5G into your daily business operations is a vital step toward success in this new era.


But why is 3G being sunsetted?


Back in the early 2000s, the UK government auctioned the 3G spectrum to major operators, raising a substantial £22.5 billion. However, as of 2022, less than 4% of data usage came from 3G, down from the 30% it carried in 2016. Smartphones were now designed with 4G and 5G capabilities, offering better connectivity for data-intensive tasks that have become the norm in the 21st century. Compared to faster networks, 3G is less efficient on the spectrum, making it essential to transition to lower bands for 5G. This transition not only ensures efficiency but also aligns with the goal of expanding 5G coverage.


Efficiency is a key factor. 5G networks are estimated to be ten times more energy-efficient than their 3G predecessors. The energy savings and superior performance of 5G make it the preferred choice for businesses. Before taking the leap to 5G, it's worth exploring its exact benefits.


Myths and facts regarding the UK 3G switch off:


Myth: All networks are being switched off at the same time.

Fact: Each network provider has its own timeline for the shutdown, so the exact dates vary.


Myth: All mobile devices will stop working when 3G is shutdown.

Fact: Most modern mobile devices are equipped with 4G and 5G capabilities, ensuring uninterrupted service. Older devices relying solely on 3G may experience service loss.


Myth: Upgrading to 4G or 5G won't bring any significant benefits.

Fact: Upgrading to 4G or 5G offers numerous advantages, including faster internet, smoother video streaming, and reduced latency.


Myth: Voice quality on 4G and 5G is the same as 3G.

Fact: Voice quality on 4G and 5G networks is significantly improved, thanks to technologies like Voice over LTE (VoLTE).


Myth: VoIP will no longer work after the 3G shutdown.

Fact: VoIP services will continue to work on 4G and 5G networks, providing even better call quality and communication experiences.


Concerns have arisen about consumers in areas with weak 4G signals. However, operators plan to switch the 3G spectrum to 4G or 5G services, improving coverage and broadband speeds. Support for basic devices without 4G capabilities is also available through affordable feature phones and charity initiatives.


Collaborating and Co-Creating:


Hybrid working is on the rise, and 5G plays a pivotal role in supporting this trend. With download speeds reaching up to 10-50 Gbps, 5G is the ideal choice for businesses enabling remote work. Lower latency facilitates real-time collaboration, making conference calls effortless and fostering a mobile and productive workforce.


Enabling the Internet of Things (IoT):


IoT is transforming the business landscape, and 5G is its foundation. 5G can support an estimated one million devices per 0.38 miles, making it the go-to choice for IoT-driven innovation. IoT enhances customer experiences, optimizes employee productivity, and contributes to sustainability goals.


A Sustainable future powered by 5G:


Businesses are increasingly prioritising sustainability, with 5G playing a crucial role. 5G networks are up to 90% more energy-efficient than 4G networks, making them a sustainable choice. IoT-powered by 5G reduces energy usage and enables data-driven practices.


Now is the Time to Plan Ahead:


The sunset of 3G may impact various devices, from medical devices to critical business equipment. Failing to prepare for this change will result in efficiency losses and disruptions. Budgeting for 5G investment and educating stakeholders are essential steps to ensure your business benefits from the 5G revolution.


While we say a fond farewell to 3G, the network that revolutionised telecommunications in the early 2000s, the fifth generation of connectivity is set to change the game completely.

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