Vodafone 3G turn-off in June sparks “digital poverty” concerns over internet accessibility
Concerns have been raised that people with older phones may lose internet access when Vodafone turns off its 3G services
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Vodafone has announced it will be gradually phasing out its 3G coverage across the UK starting next month. But the news has sparked concerns with campaigners that turning off the network will lead to “digital poverty” for those with older and more basic model phones.
The mobile network will be the first UK telecoms firm to turn-off their 3G coverage in a nationwide phase-out next month. It is hoped that by turning off the coverage Vodafone will be able to strengthen their 4G and 5G services, aiming to give parts of the UK more reliable connectivity.
Andrea Dona, Vodafone UK’s chief network officer, said 3G use had “dropped significantly” with less than 4% of the mobile network’s customers using their data on its 3G network. He also said this is “time to say goodbye to 3G and focus on the current benefits and future possibilities of our 4G and 5G networks”.
Campaign group Digital Poverty Alliance has criticised the 3G turn-off, despite Vodafone revealing its plans to support customers as they move to 4G. The company has said it is working with third parties, including We Are Digital, to set up the Digital Skills Helpline to support vulnerable customers.
Vodafone also said it will be supporting customers by providing information including how to check if a phone is capable of accessing 4G. The Digital Poverty Alliance has argued turning off 3G would have “detrimental effects”.
In a statement, the organisation said: “Older and basic devices do not have 4G capabilities, so individuals who can only get online using a basic device will fall into digital poverty.” The Digital Poverty Alliance also warned turning off 3G will have an “adverse effect” on the aims to help get more people accessing the digital world.
After initial trials in Plymouth and Basingstoke in February, Vodafone will continue to switch off 3G in Hull, Oxford and Greater London in June before moving across the South of the UK. The remainder of the country will lose 3G connectivity on Vodafone phones by the end of the year.