Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Mobile Industry Working Group to Support 3G Switchover

The Australian Federal Government is working with industry to establish a new Working Group to support the planned switchover from 3G to 4G.

The 3G network switchover was first announced in 2019, and will provide a more efficient use of spectrum by mobile network operators to boost capacity and data speeds.

In 2016, the switch-off of the 2G network caused problems for some businesses, including a Melbourne-based bike share service which had relied on the network for credit card handling. While SIM cards had been replaced in the case of that service, firmware had not been updated for compatibility with 3G.

The new Working Group will focus on a subset of 4G handsets configured by the manufacturer to use 3G for calling Triple Zero, despite otherwise working over 4G to make voice calls.

The Government says it is concerned customers in possession of particular 4G handsets may mistakenly believe their mobile device is unaffected post-switchover, as the handset could continue to operate normally for voice and data, except when trying to call Triple Zero.

While TPG’s network ceased operation on 30 January 2024, Telstra plans to shut down its 3G network on 30 June 2024, and Optus plans to do the same from 1 September 2024.

If warranted in the public interest, options exist under law for the Government to consider regulatory intervention – including proposals for delays to planned switchovers, subject to required consultation and procedural processes.

Industry are undertaking efforts to advise customers with some older 4G phones, devices purchased overseas and brought into Australia, or those purchased via the ‘grey market’ that their handsets may not be appropriately configured to make emergency calls following the switchover.

Mobile network operators now estimate up to 740,000 handsets could potentially be impacted, however further work is needed by the Working Group to validate the scope of these estimates.

The Working Group will formalise collaboration between industry to better identify impacted customers, improve the accessibility of public-facing information and contact points, and amplify messages to ensure the community is aware of the switchover.

All three major telecommunications providers – Telstra, Optus, TPG – and the peak industry body, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), have been asked to join the Working Group. The Department of Infrastructure. Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts will have observer status.

The Group will provide fortnightly updates to the Government on efforts to identify potentially impacted customers, and identify ways for customers to check if their device will be impacted.

Telcos are best placed to advise whether an individual’s phone may be affected and will be reaching out directly to impacted customers. More information is available at each provider website below.

The Government strongly advises consumers against placing test calls to Triple Zero, given impacted devices will still work over existing 3G services until the 3G switchovers occur later this year. This will not provide an answer on whether your phone is affected, and could prevent others from accessing life-saving support.

To find out if your device is impacted, consumers are encouraged to contact their provider.

Visit https://amta.org.au/3g-closure/

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