by Daisy Bashford

Network giant, Vodafone have recently announced plans to switch off its ageing, two-decade-old UK 3G network by the end of 2023. The company will become one of the first of Britain’s main operators to do so (alongside BT) with the aim of allocating more range to faster, and more reliable, 4G and 5G signals. 

Despite promising that ‘no one will be left behind’, the change will have an inevitably large impact on hundreds of thousands of primarily older people and those living in rural areas, forcing them to upgrade their mobile phones. 

Director of Policy at the Countryside Alliance, Sarah Lee, said: “The benefits that 4G and 5G connectivity can bring to rural communities cannot be underestimated and we welcome Vodafone’s ambition to deliver this by 2023. While Vodafone have promised that ‘no one will be left behind’, history has taught us that these digital infrastructure projects never run to schedule. If Vodafone cannot meet this rollout target, then they must delay in switching off the 3G network rather than leaving thousands of their customers without connectivity.”

Chief Executive of Vodafone UK, Ahmed Essam, said: “Our goal is for everyone to stay connected, and we will be doing everything we can to make sure that is the case.” The Countryside Alliance welcomes this statement from Vodafone, having campaigned for better digital connectivity for rural areas and continuously made the point that mobile connectivity is an essential service and must be treated as such. 

If you live, work or travel in the countryside, the ability to use your mobile is an important part of everyday life, yet digital connectivity remains as one of the biggest challenges that rural communities are facing. The lack of access to high quality digital connectivity is not only a barrier to growth but is leading to increased isolation and social exclusion. 

We hope that Vodafone can deliver on its target whilst not leaving anyone behind, ensuring that our digital infrastructure is responsive to user needs whilst being in line with what is available to them.

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