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Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

Concerns have been raised in some parts of the New England lately with Telstra customers being advised that the 3G network in their area is being switched off. But it’s not just Telstra, it’s all of them, and it’s everywhere.

The big change is making many in regional areas nervous, as the ‘better’ 4G and 5G networks generally have a shorter range and patchier coverage in many areas. However, the change is necessary to increase and improve services.

WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS?

The decision to shut down the 3G network was industry wide and backed by government. (It’s also happening everywhere else in the world.) The frequencies currently used for 3G are being repurposed for more 4G and 5G services in a process known as ‘refarming’.

Mike Marom, the General Manager for Telstra in NSW, explained that the technology has changed over time, and there’s very few people still using 3G.

“When Telstra launched the 3G network in Australia twenty years ago, we were just using our phones for calls, sending texts and accessing basic information online.”

“Social media was in its infancy with Facebook, and Instagram was still many years away.”

“As our technology use changes, it’s important that customers have a network that’s fit for the way we use technology now and in the future,” Mr Marom said.

“Today we’re seeing the demand for mobile data growing at around 30 per cent each year, and 3G just doesn’t have the download speeds to meet customer demand.”

“Since our customers have moved to devices offering 4G and 5G, we have seen a significant decline in 3G usage across our national network.”

In fact, 3G usage now accounts for just 1% of our mobile network traffic,” Mr Marom said.

WHEN DOES IT START?

TPG (Vodaphone)TelstraOptus
Felix mobile
iiNet 
Internode 
Kogan Mobile 
Lebara Mobile 
TPG 
Vodafone 



ALDI Mobile 
Belong 
Boost Mobile 
Exetel 
Lycamobile 
MATE 
More 
numobile 
Superloop 
Tangerine Telecom 
Woolworths Mobile 
amaysim 
Aussie Broadband 
Catch Connect 
Circles.Life 
Coles Mobile 
Dodo 
iPrimus 
Moose Mobile 
Southern Phone 
SpinTel 
Yomojo 
Which carriers are on each network provider

About four months ago. Vodaphone (which is now owned by TPG) has already completed it’s shut down, Telstra is shutting theirs down from the end of June, and Optus will start their shutdown in September this year.

If you’re on a second tier carrier like Dodo or Boost, you will need to know which towers your provider uses to know when you may be affected.

WHY DIDN’T THEY TELL ME?

All and sundry have been talking about this for many years. If this news is taking you by surprise, well… you’re probably a very typical human that doesn’t pay attention to messages that don’t make much sense and don’t seem relevant to you at the time.

A spokesperson for TPG (Vodaphone) says they publicly announced the closure of their 3G network in September 2022 to provide 14 months’ notice and plenty of support for our customers to prepare for the move.

“We have been proactively contacting our customers through regular SMS and email campaigns to let them know about the 3G closure, and to help them upgrade their phones or device settings.”

“We have sent more than two million messages to our customers to keep them updated about the 3G network closure and have put on extra staff in our retail stores and contact centres to help customers with this transition.”

Meanwhile Telstra says they announced they were closing their 3G network in 2019, and have been communicating it via advertising, texts, online articles, our website, in store, media stories and direct mail, and will continue to do so in coming months. They’re also focusing on vulnerable customers to make sure they’re supported through the transition.

“We don’t want anyone to be unaware that they may be not able to communicate with their mobile device after June 30 and we don’t want people to leave it to the last minute,” Mr Marom said.

WILL MY PHONE STILL WORK?

Depends on your phone. If you have a 3G only device, that’s an easy no – you need a new handset. If you look at the top right of your screen usually where it has the bars, and it says 3G next to the bars, then you will either need a new phone or the settings changed on your phone. You can either recycle your current device or use it as a nice paperweight, it wont be good for much else.

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Associations CEO, Louise Hyland says it’s crucial to act now if you know you have an older mobile device that relies on a 3G network that has not already been upgraded.

“If devices are not upgraded, it could mean that you are no longer able to make emergency calls to 000 from that device once Australia’s 3G networks are fully inactive,” she said.

Some older 4G phones that don’t have VoLTE may also not work after the shut down. VoLTE or ‘Voice over Long Term Evolution’ is not on phones iPhone 5/Samsung Galaxy S5 or older, and on some models you may need to change your settings to turn it on. Or, just get a new phone.

In some rare cases very old SIM cards may need replacing, but your phone itself is fine. Your carrier has likely contacted you if that’s the case, but if you’re worried either request a new SIM from customer service or Telstra and Optus customers can pop into a Telstra or Optus shop and they’ll switch it for you – there’s no charge, it doesn’t take long, and it doesn’t change your phone number.

If you do need a new phone the good news is that there are some pretty cheap deals, including a $1 phone from Optus and a $2 phone from Vodaphone. Don’t want a contract? Australia Post, Officeworks, and plenty of other places have unlocked phones for less than $200, including Nokia and Opel phones with buttons instead of a touchscreen.

Something to keep in mind: it’s not just phones. If you have EFTPOS terminals, security systems, medical alarms or anything else that is running on the 3G network, you need to find out if the thing can work on 4G or you need a new one.

WHAT HAPPENS IF 4G/5G DOESN’T WORK AT MY PLACE

We asked all three telcos this. Shockingly, none of them answered the question.

If you’re affected by this, talk to your telco about your options.

Optus is providing one glimmer of hope: a partnership with SpaceX to provide 100% coverage.

The claim is that they will use Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite direct-to-mobile connectivity to provide SMS coverage from the end of this year, and voice calls from next year, anywhere that isn’t covered by an existing tower.

WHY CAN’T I SEE SOMEONE IN PERSON TO HELP ME WITH THIS

Ah yes, the biggest challenge for so many who live in regions such as ours. This is technical and confusing, and it would be good to just sit with someone and sort it out, wouldn’t it?

There are of course a few Telstra stores in Armidale, Tamworth, Inverell, and Narrabri; and Optus stores in Armidale and Tamworth (there are no Vodaphone stores). You can also chat to anyone that sells phones at places like Harvey Norman, and the places that repair mobile phones can be helpful too if you have one of those.

There’s also the age old reliable source: ask the kids.


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