Switching off 2G and 3G and 2G networks: advice for IoT and third-party device suppliers

Published: 22 January 2024
Last updated: 24 May 2024

The UK’s mobile network providers will switch off their 3G and then 2G networks over the next few years. This page explains how suppliers of Internet of Things (IoT) and third-party devices can help their customers during this period of change.

What’s happening?

Mobile network operators (MNOs) have told the UK Government that they do not intend to offer 2G and 3G networks beyond 2033 at the latest. This will support the roll-out of 4G and 5G networks, which will offer faster and more reliable services for customers.

Vodafone and EE have completed their 3G network switch offs. Three is expected to switch off its 3G network by the end of 2024 with VMO2 expected to follow in 2025. For more information about the 3G network switch-off, including MNOs’ different timings, read our guide for customers.

No MNO in the UK has announced specific plans for their 2G network switch-off following 3G switch off, but this will be completed by 2033 at the latest, and possibly as early as 2028. All 2G and 3G devices will need to be upgraded to at least 4G by this point.

Our role and what we expect of mobile providers

While Ofcom does not have a formal role in the switch-off process, we want to ensure that customers are treated fairly and can continue to access the services they need. With that in mind, we have set out how we expect (PDF, 284.4 KB) MNOs to approach the switching off of their services. The document also explains the relevant regulatory requirements that providers will need to meet during this process.

The switch-off will affect many other devices too

As well as mobile phones, there are many other devices that use mobile networks to connect. These include telecare alarms, security alarms, fire alarms, ATMs and payment terminals.

While newer devices generally can use 4G, there are still many older devices (up to 2.5m) that rely on older 2G and 3G technology.

Ofcom wants to make sure that customers can continue to access the services they need, with minimal disruption. We have engaged with different sectors about the network changes, and written this advice for managing the change as a supplier.

Before reading this supplementary advice, please read our expectations of mobile providers.

Help customers through the change

If you provide a service (like telecare) that relies on 2G or 3G networks, then you are responsible for ensuring the continuity of service after 2G and 3G networks are switched off. This responsibility might be part of contractual obligations you have with your customers, as well as any regulatory requirements that already exist.

Most 3G devices will still be able to use 2G for voice calls and limited data services until the 2G networks are switched off. If a device has a SIM that can only work on a 3G network, you will need to upgrade it before the relevant MNO switches off their 3G network.

If a device uses 2G, or will use 2G after 3G is switched off, then you will need to develop a migration plan with the 2G switch-off timings in mind.

You should also consider:

  • communicating with customers to make them aware of any changes that may be required and by when they may need to happen; and
  • taking any necessary steps to identify customers who could be affected by the switch-off, and minimise any associated risks.

It might take a while to find and source suitable device, such as 4G-capable, and in some cases physically replace the equipment you have installed. So it’s important to communicate clearly and give enough notice, using the plans published by MNOs.

Give more thought to roaming SIMs

Most SIMs are provided by a mobile network operator (like Vodafone, Three, VMO2 or EE), or by a virtual operator or reseller (like Lebara, Asda Mobile or Lycamobile). We expect these operators to work with third-party users of their networks to minimise disruption as 2G and 3G are switched off.

However, some of these devices rely on 2G or 3G ‘roaming SIMs’ (usually non-UK SIMs brought into the UK), which roam between the available mobile networks to provide data connectivity.

Service providers often choose these types of SIMs so they have access to all the operators’ networks, maximising the chance of getting good coverage and reliable connectivity for their service.

Because these service providers do not have a direct relationship with MNOs, and there’s often a long supply chain through various intermediaries, it isn’t as easy to tell everyone about the switch-off and make sure they upgrade their devices.

We understand that it might not be easy for MNOs to identify these services, given they are not their direct customers and the SIMs might have been supplied by international partners.

It’s important that MNOs and other suppliers of mobile services (like roaming SIMs) work closely with their customers to minimise any disruption to services.

Use our 3G ‘not-spot’ data

As providers switch off their 3G networks, we estimate that – as well as existing 'not spots' – a few more properties might lose access to a reliable, indoor, 3G-only mobile service from any network provider.

To help providers of services (especially telecare) identify any customers that could lose 3G connection, we have published a list of affected postcodes. The data does not apply to 3G devices that can also connect through 2G or 4G networks.

For telecare, this loss of 3G coverage might affect around 1-3% of a small number of devices that rely on 3G-only roaming SIMs, supplied by a provider outside the UK.

We will update this information as other networks confirm their switch-off plans.

Encourage your industry body to develop guidance for your sector

In your sector, there might be other things to consider when approaching the 3G and 2G switch-off. So, we encourage industry bodies like trade associations to talk to their members and publish sector-specific guidance.

Here are some (but not all) types of device that could be affected by the switch-off:


  • Telecare
  • Fire
  • Security


  • Smart meters (domestic and business)
  • Solar panel installations
  • Monitoring of utilities networks (water, gas, electricity)

Vehicle-related connectivity

  • eCall emergency service
  • Electric vehicle charging points
  • Telemetry/tracker devices
  • Parking meters
  • Bus ticketing machines

In January 2024 we wrote to local government organisations (PDF, 168.8 KB) and the telecare sector (PDF, 148.5 KB), to reiterate the importance that telecare and other service providers:

  • are prepared for the changes; and
  • work with organisations that use their services to identify customers who need a device upgrade.

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