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6 months ago

The SME’s Guide to Hanging Up on 3G

As technology continues to advance, older networks like 2G and 3G are being phased out to make way for more efficient and faster alternatives. In the UK, the 3G ‘switch-off’ is on the horizon, and it's essential for SMEs to prepare for this transition. This guide suggests a strategy and a viable solution for seamless communication that helps your business dial into the future.

What is the 3G Switch-Off?

The impending 3G switch-off is a technological evolution and a strategic move driven by the telecoms industry. Here's a breakdown of why this transition is happening:

Spectrum Reallocation

As technology moves on and the demand for faster and more reliable mobile connectivity grows, the finite resource of radio spectrum becomes an issue. Telecom providers are reallocating ‘spectrum space’ to accommodate more modern, efficient technologies like 4G and 5G networks.

Woman looking at phone screen with a confused expressionThese advanced networks not only offer higher data speeds but also support a broader range of uses, including augmented reality (AR).

Network Efficiency

4G and 5G networks are designed to handle data more efficiently than their predecessor. The 3G switch-off allows telecom operators to optimise their networks, leading to improved overall performance and reduced latency.

This switch-off is crucial to meet the increasing demands of businesses for seamless, high-speed internet connectivity.

Cost Considerations

The 3G infrastructure requires expensive maintenance, upgrades and resources that telecom companies could better invest in new technologies. By phasing out 3G, telecom operators can streamline their operations and allocate resources more efficiently, contributing to long-term sustainability.

Global Standardisation

The industry trend is moving towards the ‘standardisation’ of more advanced technologies. As other countries phase out older networks, aligning with the global standard becomes more of a priority for the UK. This 'standardisation' will improve compatibility with international networks and support seamless communication for businesses.

Better User Experience

Ultimately, the 3G switch-off intends to provide users with a better and more consistent experience. By focusing on advanced networks, telecom operators can deliver faster data speeds, reduced latency, and improved coverage, meeting the growing expectations of consumers and businesses.

When is the 3G Switch-Off Happening?

The transition from 3G to more advanced networks involves a meticulously planned schedule that aims to minimise disruption and allow businesses the time to adapt. Staying informed on the key dates and phases is crucial for SMEs to plan and implement necessary changes.

Mobile providers have already begun phasing out 3G networks across the country. Here’s a breakdown of the biggest providers’ plans:

Vodafone

Vodafone, which claims to have over 18 million customers in the UK, has said it plans to switch off 3G this year to focus on investing more in 4G and 5G. Its 3G network has already disappeared in large areas of the country as its national shutdown continues.

EE

EE customers in the UK still have full access to its 3G network, as it plans to shut up shop in 2024, opting to focus on strengthening the ‘more reliable’ 4G and 5G.

Virgin Media O2

According to an Ofcom report, the Virgin-O2 joint venture hasn’t yet announced plans for a 3G switch-off, meaning access to the network will remain open until further notice.

Three

Three will gradually phase out 3G services over the next year, aiming to switch it off completely by the end of 2024.

A spokesperson said: "Now is the perfect time to consider changing your device to one that's capable of 4G data and 4G calling (also known as VoLTE) if you haven't already. We'll help you every step of the way."

According to Ofcom, the remaining mobile companies currently offering 3G services in the UK are:

  • Asda Mobile

  • BT Mobile

  • Ecotalk

  • FreedomPop

  • Giffgaff

  • iD Mobile

  • Lebara Mobile

  • Lycamobile

  • Plusnet

  • Sky Mobile

  • Smarty

  • Superdrug Mobile

  • Talk Mobile

  • Tesco Mobile

  • Utility Warehouse

  • Virgin Mobile

  • VOXI

  • Your Co-op

  • 1p Mobile

Assess Your Infrastructure

Before the 3G switch-off takes place, it's essential for SMEs to conduct an assessment of their infrastructure. This approach involves identifying all devices and services that currently rely on 3G connectivity and evaluating their compatibility with fourth and fifth-generation networks. Here's a step-by-step guide:

Complete a Device Inventory

Start by creating a detailed inventory of all devices owned by your business that use 3G connectivity. These devices might include smartphones, tablets, IoT devices or security systems.

Speak to Providers

Reach out to your device and service providers to enquire about their compatibility with 4G or 5G networks. Discuss potential upgrades or replacements for devices that may become obsolete after the relevant switch-off dates.

Test Your Systems

Conduct thorough testing of your current systems and processes to ensure they function seamlessly with newer networks. Identify any areas of concern that might need addressing before the switch-off.

Consider Your Budget

Assess the financial implications of upgrading or replacing devices and services. Build a budget that accounts for any required investments in new technology, ensuring a smooth transition without any surprising costs.

Think About Training

If the switch to new devices or systems requires employee training, plan and implement the sessions well in advance. Ensure your team is familiar with the new technology to minimise disruptions to your day-to-day operations.

Could VoIP be the Solution?

In the wake of the 3G switch-off, SMEs will need robust communication solutions that align with the demands of the digital age.

Man at a desktop computer speaking over a headsetVoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone systems are an efficient solution and could be the right fit for your business. Here's why SMEs should consider VoIP:

Seamless Connectivity

VoIP operates over the Internet, providing uninterrupted and high-quality audio communication. This approach to telecommunications ensures your business stays connected even as traditional phone networks, like 3G, are phased out.

Cost Efficiency

VoIP typically offers lower costs compared to traditional phone systems, especially for international calls. SMEs can optimise their expenses and allow for some budget reallocation to other areas of the business.

Better Flexibility

VoIP phone systems are usually very flexible and scalable, accommodating the evolving needs of growing businesses. Adding or removing phone lines can be done easily, allowing SMEs to adapt to changing requirements.

Additional Features

VoIP systems often come with a suite of advanced features not available on mobile that have the power to enhance efficiency and customer service for businesses. These might include voicemail-to-email, call forwarding, virtual receptionists and conference calling.

Integration Capability

VoIP often integrates seamlessly with other technology and apps. This integration can streamline business processes by linking to CRM systems, email servers, collaboration platforms and more.

Remote Work Suitability

As remote work becomes increasingly popular, VoIP systems provide the necessary tools for effective communication regardless of the location of team members. The use of VoIP in this scenario is particularly attractive for SMEs with field-based colleagues or teams embracing flexible work arrangements.

Find the Right System for the Right Price

Ensure you get the optimum service at the most competitive price by comparing providers with BusinessComparison. Eliminate the hassle of shopping around and making endless phone calls by using our comprehensive comparison service.

Once we have a good idea of your business’s requirements, we'll conduct a thorough market comparison and deliver the best quotes tailored to your needs.

Let us Help Your Business

We help you compare essential business products and services, ensuring you get the best deal and helping you with your bottom line. Save time and money with us by comparing today.

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Sam White