Japan’s second largest mobile network operator (MNO) by subscriptions, KDDI (au), has announced that it is shutting down its legacy 3G network today (31 March) and advises affected users to upgrade to new device models if they want to continue using its services. With the ‘CDMA 1X WIN’ service being automatically terminated, the MNO said that anyone who has their contract terminated will still be able to use their existing phone number and email address, providing they upgrade before 30 June 2022.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in a statement dated 29 November 2021 KDDI noted that with the spread of 5G and 4G LTE capable of ultra-high speed data communication and ‘au VoLTE’ capable of high-quality voice calls, the number of users of the older 3G service is on the wane. KDDI confirmed that current 3G users would be able to upgrade to 4G or 5G network-compatible phones free of charge, noting that six smartphone models were already available. Meanwhile, it said that shutting down the old service will free up frequencies creating ‘an environment where customers can comfortably use au and UQ mobile phone services’.
KDDI’s main rivals SoftBank Corp and NTT DOCOMO have already outlined their intentions to switch off 3G services in January 2024 and March 2026, respectively. According to Japan’s communications ministry the number of subscriptions to 3G networks as of the end of 2021 stood at 20.74 million, accounting for roughly 10% of the total at that date.