Telia to close its 3G network, competitor Tele2 to wait a few years

Cell tower.
Cell tower. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Telecommunications service provider Telia is set to close its 3G network between February and end-of-year 2023, Tele2 said it will wait at least until 2025. There is some confusion among Telia customers as to which cell phones will become obsolete.

Telia said Monday that it will start rolling back its 3G network county-by-county starting in February. Lääne, Pärnu and Rapla counties will lose the 3G part of Telia's network in February and March, Harju County and Tallinn in April. The move will be finished in November when Telia 3G will be lost in Tartu, Valga, Põlva and Võru counties.

The mobile operator's decision only concerns those customers who have 2G/3G devices that lack VoLTE support and cannot be used to make calls in 4G networks.

"Most Telia customers will be unaffected by the network closure as they use devices that support VoLTE. We will inform customers directly affected by the 3G closure, those not using VoLTE devices via SMS," Raigo Neudorf, press representative for Telia, told ERR.

While Neudorf said it is difficult to pinpoint which devices will become obsolete, a list of devices has surfaced on social media, allegedly from Telia, that also includes newer model iPhones. The Telia spokesperson said these are phones not manufactured for our region, adding that some phones made for the North American market might not support Telia's VoLTE service.

Neudorf urged people to buy phones in the region where they will be used. "For example, Telia tests every model that it carries before selling them to customers," he said.

2G network to be retained

Telia still retains its 2G network, meaning that owners of 2G/3G devices can keep using that.

"Most phones that can operate in both 2G and 3G networks will not become obsolete overnight once we shut down our 3G network. Telia's 2G network will continue to facilitate calls. However, we would like to encourage our customers to adopt VoLTE phones instead of taking a step back to 2G," Neudorf said.

The closing of the 3G network could also affect USB mobile data receivers and tablets.

Today, 99 percent of Telia's mobile data volume moves through 4G and 5G networks, with around 70 percent of all calls made in 4G.

Tele2 to retain its 3G network for a few more years

ISP Tele2 is also considering shutting down its 3G network but won't do it before 2025, its CTO Tanel Sarri said.

"We want the transition to be seamless for the customer and to make sure all necessary, including critical services remain available to everyone," he remarked.

Around a fifth of Tele2 customers use phones that support 2G/3G but not 4G.

ERR was unable to reach Elisa for comment before the article's publication.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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