The 3G network is shutting down: what is means for you

Telstra and other carriers are closing their 3G mobile networks this year. Picture: TELSTRA

It’s been around for more than 20 years, but it’s time for the 3G mobile phone network to retire.

As of 30 June this year, Telstra will shut off its 3G network and if you have a 3G device, this means it’s time to update.

The telco announced the shutdown in October 2019 and customers have until the June deadline to make sure they are operating on the 4G or 5G networks.

Other Australian telcos are also shutting down their 3G networks this year.

Lockyer Valley Communications manager Sarah Burgess said switching to a new device was straight forward.

“If you’ve got a 3G device, it does mean that you need to upgrade and get a new handset,” she said.

“There are a range of different devices now, so the cost doesn’t have the break the bank to upgrade your device.

“Come in to store and have a chat with us.”

WHAT’S THE STORY?

Telstra’s 3G network launched in 2003 and, at the time, phones were mainly for calling, texting, and sending limited amount of data.

Smartphones were still several years away.

Now, we use our smartphones for data-heavy tasks, increasing the demand for mobile data by 30 per cent every year.

Telstra launched its 4G network in 2011 and phone users have progressively upgraded their services to take advantage of increased speeds and service availability.

In May 2019, the 5G network was launched, which now covers more than 80 per cent of Australia’s population.

Traffic on Telstra’s 3G network declined significantly since the subsequent networks were launched.

As our phones have gotten smarter and technology gets better, more and more of us are moving to 4G or even 5G.

WHY DO I NEED TO UPGRADE?

It is important to make sure your phone is compatible with the newer networks to ensure you’re covered when you need it.

There may be customers who have devices which use the 4G network for internet access, but the 3G network for calls and text messages.

“We’re still getting a lot of customers in who think they’re fine, but we have to check that and let them know it’s a 3G calling device,” Sarah said.

“After the 30th of June, they can’t even make a Triple Zero call.

“It’s not a risk anyone should be taking.

“If they’re on a 3G device it’s really important.”

DO I NEED A SMARTPHONE?

Upgrading to a new phone doesn’t mean you have to move to a smartphone if it is not your preference.

“There are a lot of different devices for different customers,” Sarah said.

“There are seniors who come in with an old 3G push button phone, they can get a compatible 4G push button phone.

“It isn’t a push into a smartphone, there’s no major technological leap that they have to take if they’re just a simple phone user.

“There are still options for people who don’t want to go to a smart phone.”

IT’S NOT JUST PHONES

The 3G network closure affects other devices too.

Mobile broadband, tablets, medical alert devices, EFTPOS machines, some smart watches, repeaters and smart antennas all run on the mobile network.

Older devices may be 3G only, so check with your device manufacturer and upgrade to a 4G compatible version before 30 June so you’re not left without connection.

Most banks or merchants have already swapped their customers’ EFTPOS machines over.

WHAT IS MY NEXT STEP?

Telstra have reached out to their customers who they know have a 3G phone to advise them of the changes.

The correspondence, whether by email, text, or white mail, advises customers of the next steps.

If you are not sure if your phone is 3G, or 3G and 4G, check your with device manufacturer’s website or pop in store.

Switching to a new phone is quite straight forward and not a time-consuming process.

“The change over between a 3G phone to new 4G phone is a matter of half an hour in store,” Sarah said.

“New device, we swap your SIM over, and it’s all done.

“It’s not anything scary.”

You can stay on your existing phone plan or prepaid offer, too.

“One of the big questions we get is ‘am I going to need to pay more, is there a change to my plan?’,” Sarah said.

“Absolutely not.

“Nothing changes in regard to your plans, you can just continue on your prepaid offer or your plan and just move straight to a new device.”

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MY COVERAGE?

Over the last several years Telstra has been upgrading its 4G network to match its 3G coverage.

Like all new technologies, the 5G coverage is building outwards from population centres over time.

The 3G spectrum will be repurposed.

The 3G 850MHz will be reallocated to the 5G network, providing 5G coverage to larger areas of regional Australia and better in-building coverage in metro areas.

Of course, mobile coverage is impacted by many factors and even if an area is covered by the mobile network, the environment itself matters.

Coverage is impacted by the landscape, like mountains and hills, and can be changed by trees, foliage, and buildings.

For those in regional areas, Telstra’s ‘Blue Tick’ devices have been thoroughly tested to maximise coverage reach.

If you have a Blue Tick 3G, it is best to get a Blue Tick 4G phone to ensure coverage equivalence.