When Will Telstra Close Their 3G Network?

3G Network

Telstra will shut down 3G in 2024

The wait is over – 5G is here. Actually, the fifth generation mobile network technology has been here for a couple of years now. With the 5G rollout fully underway, there’s a good chance you’ve already experienced its fast download speeds on the Telstra, Optus, or TPG Telecom/Vodafone network.

But with this technological leap comes an end to another era. As 5G grows into becoming the norm, 3G will become eventually become extinct.

Telstra, Australia’s largest telco with the widest 3G coverage, announced that their 3G network will be turned off in June 2024. That means that, if you have a 3G-only device and you’re on the Telstra network, you will not be able to use your Telstra data plan on that device.

However, this really isn’t as scary as it might sound. That’s because the vast majority of Australians already have devices that are 4G-capable. Therefore, there’s a great chance you’re using 4G or 5G right now, and that you haven’t seen a 3G connection in a long, long time.

Other telcos will also shut down their 3G networks eventually. It will be no different from how 2G was phased out of your memory. Think about it – do you even remember 2G?

In this post, we’ll explore the upcoming 3G shut down and how it might affect different groups.

Where is 3G used the most?

Rural areas depend on 3G networks the most, when considering consumer plans. That’s because newer network technologies take a long time to roll out in such communities because of their sparse populations.

In other words, if there aren’t enough people in a particular area to allow a telco recoup its infrastructure costs, then such an area falls quite low on the priority level.

Telstra has the widest rural coverage in Australia, thanks to their 3G network. The telco’s 3G network covers 99 percent of the Australian population. As a result, the rural population, having the largest dependency on 3G in the country, will likely have more of an issue with the end of 3G.

But Telstra has some solutions in place that will help the 3G phase out feel less troubling.

How Telstra will ease their 3G shut down

As stated, you likely already have a device that’s 4G capable, and maybe even 5G. If you fall in this category, as the vast majority of Australians do, then you don’t have to worry about the 3G shutdown.

For those who only have 3G devices, you have over 3 years to upgrade, which is a lot of time. And the good news is that an upgrade to a 4G device won’t cost much – you can get a brand new phone for under $100, or even get a second hand flagship phone if you want to stay in the trend.

But Telstra is doing their part to make the 3G shut down easier on you. For those rural areas that rely on 3G regardless of whether they have a 4G device, Telstra is planning and upgrading their 4G network to have similar size and reach as the current 3G network coverage.

Also, 3G spectrum won’t go to waste – Telstra will repurpose that spectrum and reallocate it to their 5G network, making it even better.

The most vulnerable groups – wearables, enterprises, government agencies, and agribusiness customers that use 3G

Some smartwatches and other wearables use only 3G networks. As a result, such devices will become less useful after the 3G shut down if you are on the Telstra network.

In such a case, it is up to the manufacturer to create 4G-enabled wearables. That also means you would have to upgrade to a 4G-enabled smartwatch or wearable.

The same is true for enterprises, government agencies, and agribusinesses. Such entities may rely on multiple devices that use 3G only, and to upgrade such high numbers of devices can be financially daunting.

This is especially true for agribusinesses that rely on a number of sensors, EFTPOS, and M2M devices that only communicate via 3G networks. Manufacturers should upgrade to 4G devices soon, but it will be at a cost to such agribusinesses. Telstra has promised to work with such entities to get them through the 3G shut down phase.

Final words

Phone companies closing down their networks can sound scary to the uninitiated. The truth is, it’s very rarely something you need to worry about. Network closures only affect the most extreme technical ‘laggards’ – people who don’t care about technology and who use their phone very rarely. That’s not a trivial part of the population but it’s a problem that solves itself in some ways. They care so little about their phone that a change like this doesn’t affect them a great deal.

4G mobile phones have been around since the first iPhone 5s, back in 2011. That’s a decade ago. It’s extremely unlikely that your phone is going to stop working. Even in the worst case event that you can no longer use your very old phone to get on the Telstra network when they shut down their 3G service, you’ll be able to get a new phone for less than $100 which will connect you to the 4G equivalent.

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.