Telstra 3G Shutdown – August 2024 – Wont be the next Y2K

Telstra 3G Network Shutdown

Telstra will shut down their 3G network in June 2024.

EDIT: Telstra recently pushed out their shutdown to August

This was announced long ago in 2019, but things sure do sneak up quickly. Optus and Vodafone have already begun their respective shutdowns. For most general individual consumers, this will largely be a nonevent. To give you some bearings, the iPhone 5 was the first Apple phone to have 4G, which was released in 2012 now, circa 12 years ago. We can assume the bulk of the population has a 4G (or even 5G) capable device at this point. Phones prefer to connect to the 4G network for voice calls as their default behavior rather than 3G. 5G is currently used only for data, while calls remain on 4G and will continue until the 5G networks mature. 

But why are Telstra shutting down 3G?

Telstra are shutting down 3G to reuse that spectrum for other things, primarily 5G. The 850MHz spectrum has long been earmarked for 5G. Being at a low frequency, this will produce a 5G signal that can travel larger distances than 5G services being deployed today by Telstra. The operators pay for the use of spectrum in Australia, so need to make the best use of it, and leaving 3G running to service minimal customers is not an efficient use of this capital outlay. 

The other consideration is the age of the 3G infrastructure makes it very hard to spare and repair. When the equipment fails currently that’s largely the end of things as it has not been manufactured in a long while since it was initially deployed. Imagine trying to source parts for a 20-year-old fridge nowadays. 

What will be the impact of not having 3G?

However, there are some situations in which the 3G networks are still relevant: 

  • A phone may, at times, use a Telstra 3G network for voice calls when there is absolutely no other coverage available to it. However, there are often edge cases. For example, challenges in rural Australia or deep in the basement of a building. Only when the overall coverage is bad, i.e. when 4G is not accessible, if there are remnants of a viable 3G signal, a phone may connect to the 3G network. If you operate in a building with poor connectivity overall and you are having to resort to 3G connectivity, then this is a clear indication of needing a more sophisticated cellular connectivity strategy, regardless of the 3G shutdown. 
  • There are some weird and wonderful cases where the 3G network shutdown will likely cause a bit of disruption. Any back-of-house services that have made use of 3G SIM/Modems that are yet to be replaced will fail. We’ve seen these ‘industrial’ sort of applications being used in ATMs, Vending Machines, Electrical Meters, Parking Machine call systems, Dial home alarms. Just to name a handful! 
  • Another weird edge case is if your phone doesn’t support VoLTE (voice of LTE/4G) services, this may be due to custom software, or having purchased a handset overseas. If you’ve got your phone from a local service provider, you shouldn’t have to think about this.  
  • When the NBN changeover happened, traditional copper phone lines were due to be disconnected. This led to various services being rapidly migrated to SIM Modem-based solutions. Unfortunately, many modems at the time were only able to do voice connectivity over 3G networks. Some examples of this are the voice call functionality within lifts, or the call attendant functionality at a parking ticket machine.  
  • Another one that is likely to pop up is any legacy Point of Sale (POS) EFTPOS machines and the like, although generally, we’ve seen most of these swapped out in recent years. 

For the most part, we don’t expect a complete meltdown of services post-3G shutdown in June 2024, but no doubt a few random industrial services out there will find out the hard way that they were still relying on 3G services. In the meantime, it is best to ponder what could be in your home/building/workplace that relies on any SIM card and one to double-check in advance.  

 If you need help improving the overall connectivity in your building, you should likely consider a Mobile Booster or DAS system, and you can contact us.