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BT switches off final 3G wireless tower

The company's decommissioning of a wireless tower in Belfast marks its full commitment to 4G and 5G service.

The company's decommissioning of a wireless tower in Belfast marks its full commitment to 4G and 5G service.

A tower used for wireless phone service. (Photo by Dominic Alves)
A tower used for wireless phone service. (Photo by Dominic Alves)

BT (British Telecom) has shut down its last 3G wireless tower as the company continues to move forward with its 4G and 5G rollout.

The final 3G wireless tower was decommissioned in Belfast, Northern Ireland earlier this month, according to officials. The tower was used for BT’s wireless phone service EE, with customers fully moved to 4G and 5G in the area.

“Belfast cemented itself as part of BT Group’s rich history last week as the location where we switched off our final 3G mobile site, bringing an end to the use of the technology in our EE mobile network after more than 20 years,” Greg McCall, the Chief Networks Officer at BT, said in a statement.

“It was a landmark moment as we continue our work to upgrade Britain’s connectivity infrastructure — but, more importantly, it is a significant milestone for communities across the U.K., who are now embracing the benefits provided by modern mobile technologies like 4G and 5G,” McCall continued.

BT spent a significant portion of last year warning customers with 3G devices that they needed to switch ahead of the planned decommission of that standard for wireless service. Many customers have already been switched to 4G and 5G networks, and have wireless and home broadband devices that work on those standards.

More than 18,000 3G sites have been decommissioned since January, McCall said, and each region was monitored in real-time to ensure customers were not adversely disrupted.

“Those 3G customers who have transitioned to our 4G and 5G networks are now enjoying more reliable and widespread mobile coverage with faster mobile internet speeds, while switching off 3G has already saved enough energy to charge nearly one billion smartphones,” McCall said. “We will continue to monitor the performance of our other mobile technologies…to ensure EE customers continue to get the high-quality connectivity experience they need from the UK’s most reliable mobile network.”

While the 3G standard has been shut down, some customers continue to rely on the older 2G standard in parts of the U.K., which support phone calls and text messages, but not emergency alerts or wireless data. Eventually, BT says its 2G network will sunset as well.

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Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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