UK officials caught napping ahead of 2G and 3G doomsday

Parking meters and trash collection face disruption as networks switch off

A worrying number of UK authorities are still unaware of the impending switch-off of 2G and 3G mobile networks, according to Local Government Association (LGA) figures.

While 38 percent of respondents were fully aware, 27 percent were only partially aware, and 7 percent had no idea at all that the axe would be falling by 2033 at the latest.

The numbers worsened when the researchers spoke to respondents in senior management. Almost half (48 percent) were "partially aware" the UK's 2G and 3G mobile networks were due to be switched off and 14 percent were not at all aware.

The actual switch-off will happen over the next few years. UK mobile operators have told government they do not intend to offer 2G and 3G mobile networks past 2033 at the latest, and there is a high likelihood that some networks will be shut down earlier.

The UK government said it welcomes plans to end services ahead of time.

Vodafone, for example, intends to pull the plug on 3G once and for all from January 2024.

Although most consumers, with their 4G and 5G devices, will likely be unaware of the end when it comes, the same cannot be said of local authorities. According to the survey, almost two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) reported that their authority was still using devices or services reliant on 2G and 3G networks.

Considering the numbers seemingly unaware of the impending sunsetting of the networks, it is easy to see that IT teams will have their work cut out. A third (32 percent) were confident that their authority would be able to handle the switch-off, two-fifths (38 percent) described themselves as "fairly confident," and 18 percent were not very confident at all.

And then there are the costs. Almost a third of respondents reckoned there would be costs involved and didn't have a handle on them, and nearly a quarter (23 percent) didn't know if there would be costs incurred.

It's worrying considering the sheer number of devices out there, from alarm systems and parking meters to telecare kit, all of which will need to be upgraded or replaced before networks are turned off. And then there are those areas where 4G, let alone 5G, has yet to reach.

According to the LGA, more than half of councils that responded to its survey said their transport services – including parking – relied on the older networks. Almost half warned that environment and waste services would be hit.

With operators starting to turn off their legacy networks, the survey demonstrates the need to raise awareness of the shutdown's implications and what needs to be budgeted for.

The LGA said: "Time is running out if we are to avoid the fallout from the big switch-off." ®

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