Virgin Media O2 has officially declared plans to phase out its 3G services by the end of 2025 as part of a broader network transformation initiative. This strategic move aims to bolster the expansion and enhancement of 4G and 5G connectivity, minimize energy consumption, and deliver superior speeds and reliability to its customers.
The decision aligns with the joint statement made by the UK Government and industry in December 2021, establishing that all mobile network operators in the UK will cease 2G and 3G services no later than 2033. Other mobile operators have also made similar announcements, signaling a collective industry shift towards newer and more efficient network technologies.
Virgin Media O2’s phased program will gradually phase out 3G services across the country, with the complete discontinuation of 3G connectivity expected by the end of 2025. The usage of 3G, which was introduced two decades ago, has significantly declined over recent years, accounting for less than 4 percent of all data used on the Virgin Media O2 network last year.
The transition to streamline the network will allow for the reallocation of mobile spectrum to the more efficient 4G and 5G services. This move promises to enhance the customer experience, offering faster data speeds, more reliable streaming, and higher-quality voice call services.
Virgin Media O2 is committed to supporting customers throughout this transition, particularly those who still use older devices. The company will proactively reach out to customers well in advance to ensure awareness of these changes and provide clear instructions and options. Support pages and trained agents will be available to assist customers in navigating the transition.
Virgin Media O2 is collaborating with consumer groups and charities, including the Good Things Foundation, to leverage their expertise and experience in managing this transition effectively. As the shutdown date approaches, Virgin Media O2 will work closely with its customers to ensure they remain connected and informed.
This network transformation program will contribute significantly to the company’s ambitious sustainability goals. 4G and 5G technologies are far more energy-efficient compared to older 3G equipment. While 3G accounted for less than 4 percent of data usage on Virgin Media O2’s network, it represented 11 percent of the company’s total energy consumption. The shift to discontinue 3G services supports Virgin Media O2’s broader initiative to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040.
Jeanie York, Chief Technology Officer at Virgin Media O2, expressed, “As we continue to evolve our network to provide the best mobile connectivity, it is clear that switching off 3G and focusing our attention and investment on the faster, more reliable, and more efficient 4G and 5G services is the right thing to do for our customers, our business, and the environment.”
Virgin Media O2’s 4G coverage already reaches 99 percent of the population, and by the end of 2023, 5G services will be accessible to over half of the UK population. Importantly, while 2G services are ultimately scheduled to be discontinued by 2033 in alignment with government targets, they will remain operational to handle calls and texts during the 3G shutdown.
Virgin Media O2 remains committed to providing its customers with dependable and advanced mobile connectivity as it continues to invest in maintaining, upgrading, and expanding its 4G and 5G networks.