Council Study Sees Positive Impact of Vodafone UK’s 3G Switch Off

Mobile network analyst firm Streetwave and the Northumberland County Council (NCC) in England have today released the findings of an interesting study that monitored the effects of Vodafone’s recent 3G switch-off in the region, which is said to have resulted in a small to modest boost in 4G/5G coverage and mobile broadband performance.

In case anybody has forgotten, Vodafone largely completed the process of switching off their old 3G network in February 2024 (here). Mobile operators have generally been compensating for the 3G switch-off in some areas by introducing upgrades for newer 4G and 5G services. The removal of 3G also freed up 10MHz of spectrum in their 900MHz band to be re-farmed for use by modern services, which could boost network speeds and coverage.

NOTE: Streetwave recorded measurements from all network generations (2G-5G), collecting more than 9,000,000 data points across Vodafone’s mobile network in Northumberland.

However, so far none of the mobile operators have released any solid evidence to show the practical and statistical impacts of the 3G switch-off, which is what makes the latest study from Streetwave in Northumberland – an extremely rural county in the North East of England – so interesting.

The data appears to show that Vodafone is now providing ‘Essential Coverage‘ across 92% of locations in Northumberland (up by 3%) and their average mobile (data) download and upload speeds are faster by approximately 10% after the switch off. Operators are deemed to have Essential Coverage by Streetwave in locations where the network provides users with above 1Mbps download, 0.5Mbps upload, and below 100ms latency (covering only basic use cases / needs).

Vodafone’s Results Across Northumberland

Network Generation:
November 2023 – Percentage of Connections
March 2024 –      Percentage of Connections




November 2023
March 2024

Essential Coverage

Average Download Speeds
11.8 Mbps
12.8 Mbps

Average Upload Speeds
4.9 Mbps
5.7 Mbps

However, the results also show a sharp rise in dependence upon even older 2G networks (mostly for voice calling), which is something that will need to be considered when it comes time to remove 2G by 2033 (here). Older 2G signals remain useful as a low-power fallback and are still necessary for some rural areas, as well as for particular applications (e.g. many Smart Meters and other IoT / M2M services remain dependent upon 2G).

Councillor Richard Wearmouth, Deputy Leader, said:

“Ensuring our residents have access to dependable mobile signal is a key priority for the council. It’s fantastic to see that Vodafone’s 3G switch-off is benefiting our communities.”

Some local authorities had been concerned that residents might suffer potential disruptions after the 3G switch-off (e.g. connectivity problems and performance woes), although the new study appears to provide the first independent evidence of the opposite occurring. The council will now continue to monitor the switch-off of Three UK and O2’s networks, which are currently scheduled to take place in late 2024 and 2025.

Notably, no impacts from EE’s 3G switch-off were measured, as “no 3G connections were detected” during the surveys across Northumberland.

Recent Posts