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    Vodafone: quiet fade out of 3G in the Netherlands

    8 april 2020

    After careful preparations, in February 2020 Vodafone switched off its 3G network in the Netherlands once and for all. In this way additional capacity has been freed up in the mobile Vodafone network to further improve the customer experience in the near future.

    Using the motto 'make the switch to 4G' customers' attention was drawn to this change numerous times during the two-year build-up. As a result, the huge operation was completed smoothly, for customers as well as from a technical point of view. Within Vodafone Group, Vodafone Netherlands is the first operator to say goodbye to 3G, a successful pilot for the rest of the world to improve the efficiency of the available radio spectrum.

    Eelco Ploum, programme manager of the 4G-4-all programme, is very pleased with the fade-out of 3G: "When we announced the deactivation in 2017, we immediately started preparations. A meticulous operation during which we upgraded the mobile network technically to ensure a smooth deactivation of 3G and guarantee sufficient 2G/4G capacity."

    Regional deactivation
    On 4 February, the deactivation process started, after months of planning and preparations. The goal was to switch off the 3G network in phases. "This has been realized region by region, without any noteworthy disruptions at customers or in systems", Eelco Ploum reports. "On paper that was what we had expected, but still, it's great that in the actual execution we did manage to quietly fade out 3G in the Netherlands."

    Switching customers over to 4G
    At first, some protests were heard against the disappearance of 3G. Thanks to a timely and repeated customer-targeted approach, explaining why 3G would disappear and helping with the switch over to 4G, only a handful of complaints were received about the deactivation. Vodafone itself had already stopped offering 3G subscriptions and devices in 2017, in an effort to anticipate this change.

    Business customers were informed by their account managers and guided to alternatives. Consumers several times received a text on their device alerting them to the deactivation of 3G. "This has proven very effective," says Eelco Ploum, "because 95 percent of the original 3G customer base has over time upgraded to 4G."

    A small part of the customer base has made a conscious choice to not upgrade to 4G for the moment. They should not experience any problems if all that matters to them is the ability to make contact (by 2G), and there is no or hardly any need for mobile data as mobile data by 2G is considerably slower than by 4G.

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