4G will account for 72% of total mobile connections by 2023 and has already overtaken 3G as Europe’s preferred technology as it delivers better speeds and availability (GSMA).
As a result, the 3G sunset in Europe is approaching with many operators confirming that their 3G networks will no longer be available after 2020.
When Will Operators Begin Their 3G Shut Down?
Many European mobile network operators have confirmed that they will remove support for their 3G networks from 2020 onwards:
- EE has already begun re-farming its 2.1GHz band but will continue support until 2022, while Telia Norway also plan to start phasing out their 3G network this year
- Telenor Norway has similarly begun to re-farm its 900MHz network to 4G LTE, originally starting this in 2017, though expect to maintain their 2.1GHz 3G until at least 2020
- Three and Vodafone (Europe-wide) have confirmed that they are aiming to switch off 3G networks by 2020, while Telenor Denmark has similar but unconfirmed plans
- Others, such as Orange France will follow suit a little later in 2021 while BT and KPN (Netherlands) are targeting 2022
- Sweden Telenor will start their 3G sunset as early as 2020 but will continue until 2025, with coverage still promised in rural areas until this date
Westbase.io is actively engaged with our mobile operator partners and will bring you the latest 3G sunset in Europe updates as they become available to us.
Why 3G Before 2G?
Other regions such as North America and Asia have shut down their 2G networks first, so why is Europe different?
- 4G LTE can do anything 3G does but better and more cost effectively, so nobody is really interested in 3G in Europe today
- Re-farming of 3G bands can boost 4G LTE networks making its sunset more valuable to operators
- 2G still supports low cost, large footprint coverage making it a better fail back technology from 4G LTE than 3G
- 2G is also still highly used for M2M/IoT applications – in fact, two thirds of operators cited this as a reason for continuing to support their 2G networks for longer
What Should My Next Steps Be?
If you’re still using 3G infrastructure today then there’s no need to panic, but now is the right time to start thinking about upgrading your networking technology – and the investment being made in 4G LTE makes it the obvious choice.
4G’s Long Term Evolution means it continues to advance, and customers looking to upgrade have different options depending on their application requirements:
LTE Advanced Pro and Gigabit LTE provide ideal upgrade paths if your application benefits from higher bandwidth – for example rapid site or in-vehicle networking. Both will naturally lead into 5G as well, making them ideal long-term investments.
LTE CAT 1 provides a more suitable upgrade path for your applications which don’t require any additional bandwidth, offering download speeds of around 10Mbps. Designed to keep costs and power low, it is ideal for M2M and IoT applications such as CashPoints and Kiosks. For those with requirements sitting in the middle of CAT 1 and LTE-A Pro, LTE CAT 4 is also a solid option.
What About CAT-M and NB-IoT?
CAT-M and NB-IoT are not suitable replacement technologies for 3G. Specifically designed for low power wide area (LPWA) applications, download speeds are at 1Mbps and below – therefore best suited to mass M2M and IoT deployments.
CAT-M and NB-IoT will eventually become replacements for 2G as they become more widespread and reliable – though 2G support is expected to remain in place until 2025. Key exceptions to this are T-Mobile Netherlands which plans to shutdown its 2G network in 2020, Swisscom will sunset their 2G network in 2021, Salt who have begun reducing coverage already but haven’t confirmed official time plans, and Sunrise who were targeting end of 2018 for their 2G sunset (these three operators are all located in Switzerland).
Upgrading 3G infrastructure is highly important and Westbase.io is here to support our channel partners and their customers through the process to make it as simple and pain-free as possible. We also have a selection of promotions currently available from our leading vendors, Cradlepoint and Sierra Wireless, which can help to ease upgrade costs for your customers.