Aussie 3G switch off threatens over 200,000 devices


Both Telstra and Optus are set to retire the older network technology in the next two months

Hundreds of thousands of people may be at risk of being cut off from emergency voice services in Australia as Optus and Telstra prepare to sunset their 3G networks.

According to new government figures released this week, around 205,000 active mobile devices in the country are unable to connect to 4G and will therefore become obsolete following the 3G shutdown.

As explained by Australian Communications Minister Michelle Rowland earlier this year, “the industry has been identifying and contacting customers with these devices; however, there is also a subset of 4G handsets that use 4G for voice and data but are configured by the manufacturer to use 3G for Triple Zero calls.”

“This category of handset is of more concern because it will not be apparent to users that their handset cannot call triple zero after the switchover. They will only discover this during an emergency,” she explained.

It is worth noting that certain demographics and regions in the country will be disproportionately affected by the switch off, include migrants and international students, which typically use handsets purchased abroad.

The switch off itself has been a long time coming, with plans first having been announced back in 2019. Since then, the number of Australian’s using affected handsets has decreased dramatically, particularly following the telcos’ more urgent communications to customers in recent months. In April, the telcos’ estimated around 1 million devices would be impacted, reducing this estimate to around 530,000 in mid-May.

Despite this rapid progress, however, the government insists that the number of affected customers remains too high, suggesting that regulatory intervention could soon become necessary.

“The Albanese government supports the 3G switchover, but it needs to be done in a safer way,” said Rowland in a statement. “The government will consider potential regulatory intervention if it is necessary and in the public interest, subject to the required consultation and procedural processes.”

Telstra is currently planning to turn off 3G at the end of August, while Optus is set to do so at the start of September.

Australia’s third mobile network operator, Vodafone Australia, has already completed its 3G switch off, which it started in December last year.

Keep up to date with all of the latest telecoms news with Total Telecom’s daily newsletter! Sign up here

Also in the news:
Australian Government and AWS Collaborate to Strengthen country’s Cybersecurity
Solving congestion challenges in FTTP deployment
Vodafone Invests £120m in AI Chatbot ‘SuperTOBi’

Recent Posts