LOGGING OFF Thousands of mobile phone handsets to go dead this year – is yours one of them?

THOUSANDS of mobile phones are set to go dead this year due to the 3G network being switched off.

To make matters worse, an estimated seven million smart meters could be rendered obsolete too.

Thousands of phones are set to go dead this year due to the 3G network being switched off
Thousands of phones are set to go dead this year due to the 3G network being switched offCredit: Getty

James Flanders explains what is going on with the retirement of 3G, what your rights are if you are affected and how to find the best deal if you need a new device.

Telecom giants are in the process of phasing out the ageing 3G network.

The move frees up networks for more advanced technologies such as 4G and 5G.

3G networks were first rolled out in the early 2000s.

They made it possible to access the internet through a mobile phone, alongside voice services.

But the launch of 4G in the 2010s and 5G in 2019 have allowed for faster mobile broadband and higher bandwidth data services.

Two major networks, EE and Vodafone, have already completed their 3G switch-off.

This means customers with firms piggybacking off these networks, such as BT Mobile, TalkTalk, Voxi and 1p Mobile, have also been affected.And thousands of customers on Three and O2 will start to lose their 3G connection in the coming months.

Those with giffgaff, Tesco Mobile, Sky and iD Mobile will also be affectedThree aims to shut off its 3G signal before the end of the year and O2 says that it will start in 2025.

Then all mobile networks need to switch off their 2G services by 2033, rendering any device without 4G-capabilities redundant.


WHILE the majority of mobile users have already migrated to 4G or 5G networks, those with older handsets will find themselves unable to access data services once 3G is phased out.

Customers on the Three network also risk losing the ability to send and receive text messages and make calls as the network does not operate its own 2G network, which acts as a failsafe in the interim.


IT is not just mobile phone connections that will be affected.

According to a report by the cross-party Public Accounts Committee, around seven million smart meters could be out of action when these masts are brought down.

Smart meters work by sending suppliers automatic meter readings to help generate accurate bills.

If they stop functioning, customers will have to go back to sending manual readings to their supplier.

However, the Data Communications Company, which designed, built and now runs Britain’s smart meter network, has said it is less concerned about the 3G switch-off.

It said the majority of smart meters across England and Wales rely on O2’s cellular network.


IF your phone only works on the 3G network, most customers will need to buy a 4G or 5G compatible device.

Three has confirmed that it will consider giving vulnerable people a free handset upgrade on a “case-by-case” basis.

Alcaltel 1 is £39.99 in Argos
Alcaltel 1 is £39.99 in Argos
A brand new iPhone SE costs £429 directly from Apple
A brand new iPhone SE costs £429 directly from AppleCredit: Apple

O2 said it is assessing its options and will decide whether it will offer similar support when it starts its switch-off.

If you are not eligible for support, brand new 4G-compatible devices can cost anywhere from £40 all the way up to £1,849.

It is worth shopping around for the cheapest deal.

For example, a touchscreen Alcatel 1 smartphone can be picked up online and in-store at Argos for £39.99.

If you are considering an iPhone, save cash by buying a refurbished handset.

These products have rarely undergone any extensive use and are not to be confused with pre-owned devices.

For example, a brand new iPhone SE costs £429 directly from Apple.

But shoppers visiting Argos can pick up the same refurbished model for just £189.99.


IF you are vulnerable and your network hasn’t contacted you and won’t offer support or an alternative device, make a complaint.

Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, has set out guidelines which mobile networks must comply with.

Firms must contact customers to explain what steps they need to take.

If a formal complaint gets you nowhere, after eight weeks you can ask for a “deadlock letter” and take your dispute to the Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme.

There are two telecommunications ADR schemes — Communication Ombudsman and CISAS.Your provider is required to be a member of one of these.

You can find out which of them to contact at ofcom.org.uk.

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