Orange will switch off its 2G and 3G networks in Europe by the end of 2030, paving the way for network modernization and spectrum refarming that will boost more advanced and efficient 4G and 5G services.
The Paris-based telecoms group is Europe’s fourth largest mobile operator, with divisions in Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain. It will adopt a two-stage approach, with the timeline for the shutdowns depending on each country’s circumstances.
In France, 3G coverage is greater than 2G, meaning the latter will be decommissioned first in 2025, before 3G is turned off in 2028. In other territories, 3G will be switched off by 2025 and then 2G no later than 2030.
Orange 2G and 3G switchover
Orange says the migration will allow it to focus on its 4G and 5G rollouts and use its spectrum assets to improve coverage and speeds for consumers. The move will also save the operator money and free up physical space on mobile sites that can be used for 5G infrastructure.
It says that by announcing the changes now, it can ensure that all device and equipment can be included in the current renewal cycle, minimising waste, and that affected customers can make plan with a degree of certainty for the future.
For example, Orange says it will work with IoT customers that might rely on 2G or 3G networks to make alternative arrangements.
“Phasing out legacy technologies such as 2G and 3G is a major part of our plan to position ourselves as a leading European network operator and to bring our customers the best connectivity possible” said Michaël Trabbia, Orange group CTIO.
“By removing obsolete technological layers and pooling our resources, we can focus on building future-proof, resilient, automated, energy efficient and optimised networks. As a result, customers will benefit from more efficient and sustainable networks leading to an enhanced user experience. This focus on maximizing the efficiency of our networks will also contribute to reducing our carbon emissions and help us meet our sustainability targets of becoming ‘Net Zero’ by 2040.”
The UK government wants operators to switch off their 2G and 3G services by 2033 to facilitate the rollout of 5G, with EE and Vodafone already committing to a 3G transition in the next few years.
The situation with 2G is less certain as it is used for mass IoT deployments that require long battery life and minimal bandwidth, such as smart metres. Some elderly and rural users also require 2G which also offers a more universal roaming service.
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.