DCMS and MNOs issue joint statement on sunsetting of 2G and 3G networks

8 Dec 2021

A joint statement on the sunsetting of 2G and 3G networks in the UK has been published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and the country’s mobile network operators (MNOs), stating ‘a joint ambition for 35% of the UK’s mobile network traffic to be carried over open and interoperable RAN architectures by 2030’. Released as part of the state’s ‘Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Strategy’, the government noted that following a recommendation from the Diversification Taskforce, it had worked closely with industry players to establish a date by which all public 2G and 3G networks in the UK will be switched off. According to the DCMS, establishing this date is ‘necessary to provide much needed clarity as to the likely commercial longevity of these technologies and will enable users to confidently plan for their future’. According to the DCMS, the UK’s four MNOs – EE, O2 UK, Vodafone UK and Three UK – have confirmed that they do not intend to offer 2G and 3G mobile networks past 2033 at the latest. Further, the DCMS said it welcomed the fact that some individual operators plan to switch off their networks – in particular 3G infrastructure – earlier than this date, although it noted that operators intend to announce their own plans about when and how they will do this. Meanwhile, the government has said it will continue to work with MNOs ‘to ensure a smooth transition that meets the needs of business users and consumers, including vulnerable groups’.

Meanwhile, with the DCMS claiming that open network architectures will play a key role in enhancing the security and resilience of network, it said it believed it the time was right to set out its ambitions to build a more competitive and diverse supply base for telecoms, following recent government decisions related to the use of high-risk vendors and the introduction of the Telecommunications Security Act. However, the DCMS stressed that the ambition to diversify the supply base was ‘not a mandate’, saying that realising its aims would instead require partnership and collaboration between government, MNOs and the wider telecoms industry. To that end, it was noted that joint activity between the authorities and cellcos in this area will include: investment in the research and development, deployment, and adoption of open network technologies; creating the right market environment to foster and encourage innovation; and international partnerships that bring together learning from across the global supply chain. A total of GBP250 million (USD331 million) in investment has been committed by the government to support his programme of work, it added.