BT Group, the owner of Britain’s EE mobile company, said on Wednesday it would phase out 3G in the next two years to free up airwaves to help bring 5G to the entire country by 2028.
BT Consumer CEO Marc Allera said demand for mobile capacity was rising by 40% every year, and BT had switched on its 5G network in 160 towns and cities since it launched in 2019. Traffic had more than quadrupled on its 5G network since October, when the 5G-enabled iPhone 12 launched, he said.
While 4G and 5G demand continued to rise, traffic carried on older 3G and 2G networks was declining, he said. Less than 3% of data and 25% of voice traffic was carried on 3G in March.
“EE is the first operator to set a timeframe to stop supporting 3G services in early 2023, with customers supported to move off it in a phased transition in the months ahead,” he said in an online presentation.
The end of 2G services, which are now 25 years old, would follow later in the decade, he added.
Third-generation mobile technology, which launched in Britain in 2003, offered a jump in data capacity, enabling Internet access on mobiles. Operators spent an eye-watering £22.5-billion buying 3G spectrum in Britain in 2000 at the peak of the dotcom boom.
Focus on 5G
After the bubble burst, operators scaled back the speed of deployment of the new services.
BT said its 5G network would cover 50% of the UK population by early 2023, four years ahead of the government’s target.
By 2028, EE’s 5G network would cover more than 90% of Britain’s landmass, Allera said, and anywhere beyond that would be served by “requestable” 5G solutions, such as a satellite connection. — Reported by Paul Sandle, (c) 2021 Reuters