How can we mitigate the impact on and provide support to vulnerable individuals during the transition from 3G mobile networks?

This online written discussion exchanged perspectives and experiences on the transition away from 3G mobile networks. It delved into the ramifications of this shift and discussed strategies to address any unintended effects.

LIVE Panel

Thursday 9 May 2024, 2pm to 3pm BST / 9am - 10am EDT


The gradual decommissioning of the 3G mobile network is currently in progress across the United Kingdom. While the 2G, 4G, and 5G networks will continue to operate, the phase-out of 3G will inevitably have adverse effects on certain segments of the population. For example, 3G SIM cards are integrated into various medical devices, highlighting a critical area of concern.

This online discussion aims to delve into the unforeseen repercussions of the 3G network’s cessation, explore effective strategies for alleviating these impacts, and discuss ways to foster greater public engagement with these ongoing developments.

Everyone is free to join the discussion. Simply login and get typing. And if you would like to be a named contributor to this written discussion please do drop us a line at:


  • Alex BarkerDisability Consultant, AbilityNet
  • Rhys Corley-Morgan, Group Impact Director, Big Issue
  • Lena Bheeroo, Engagement & Equity Manager, Bond
  • Hera Hussain, Founder, Chayn
  • Elizabeth Wells, Head of Entrepreneurship, Cherie Blair Foundation
  • Julie Dacosta, CEO, Crossroads Care, Richmond and Kingston
  • Antonis Kousoulis, Director of Partnerships, GMHAN secretariat - Global Mental Health
  • Hannah Whelan, Advocacy Manager, Good Things Foundation
  • Luiz Felippe Zoghbi, Spectrum Engagement Director, GSMA
  • Dr Mani Manimohan, Head of Digital Infrastructure Policy & Regulation, GSMA
  • Shona Munro, Director of Corporate Affairs Strategy, Highland Digital Inclusion Network and Mhor Collective
  • Irene MacKintosh, Chair, Highland Digital Inclusion Network and Mhor Collective
  • Phoebe Crowder, Global Digital Programmes Director, Hope After Harm
  • Fiona Loud, Policy Director, Kidney Care UK
  • Steve Murigi, CEO, Primary Care International
  • Dan Worth, Research and Performance Analyst, Rural Services Network
  • Dennis Reed, Director, Silver Voices
  • Lizzy Dobres, Head of Partnerships and Development, Women’s Aid

Moderator: Katie Hyson, Director of Thought Leadership and COO, Business Fights Poverty


  1. In what ways will the 3G mobile network decommissioning affect vulnerable people?

  2. In your experience how can we best engage vulnerable groups with these ongoing developments?

  3. What kind of support would vulnerable customers need from their service provider as part of the 3G switch off?

How to add your comments

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digi-2g-3g-4g-updates.pdf (654.7 KB)
any-g-to-lte.pdf (672.3 KB)

Useful technical details about the transitions and rationale for the move.

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Hi, I am Katie and I will be your moderator. I am looking forward to the session.

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Hi :wave: I’m Elizabeth and am on the panel for this session. I’m looking forward to the discussion.

Connect with me on LinkedIn:

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Hello, I am also on the discussion panel. Looking forward to it and connecting

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Hi! I am Luiz Felippe Zoghbi from The GSMA and I will be in the panel. See you all tomorrow. My linked in is

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Hi all, I’m Rhys Corley-Morgan, Impact Director at Big Issue Group and I will be on the panel. My LinkedIn is here if you would like to connect:


Hello! I’m Irene from an organisation called Mhor Collective. We specialise in digital inclusion and minimising the impact of digital inequality. Am looking forward to joining in with our first written forum of this type!

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Hi I am Shona, based in the far north Highlands and Director at Mhor Collective (CIC focussing on Digital Inclusion across Scotland and beyond). Looking forward for to taking part in the forum and hearing from others.

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Hi, Dan Worth here from the Rural Services Network (RSN), a membership organisation working on behalf of our members as the national champion for rural services. I’m looking forward to this afternoons discussion.


Hi all :wave: Hannah here from Good Things Foundation. I’m looking forward to our conversation!


Why are 3G networks being switched off?

The Government have agreed with all mobile network operators to switch off 3G services - some operators have already begun this. The use of 3G is declining and switching it off means the mobile operators can invest more effectively in the future of their networks, redirecting focus and resources towards more reliable and energy-efficient 4G and 5G networks.

Our first question today:
In what ways will the 3G mobile network decommissioning affect vulnerable people?

We know that people who are victims of poverty, who’re really struggling financially are less likely to have the devices that can accommodate these kind of changes. Folk who literally have older phones. I would imagine this will mean, for instance, suddenly people who are entitled to claim benefits like universal credit and do so using their mobile device transferred over 3G suddenly won’t be able to do this, contributing further to hardship.


And also certain devices used by folk, like some of the medical alert systems, and some technology enabled care solutions might rely on 3G for communication, not least because again, some people may be using older devices. Disruptions to these services could cause harm/risk and endanger folk.

Hello! I’m Hera Hussain, the Founder and CEO of Chayn ( Happy to connect on LinkedIn: Hera Hussain - Chayn | LinkedIn

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Hi y’all! I’m Hannah from Good Things Foundation (X here). Some communities experiencing digital exclusion (vulnerable people inc. lower income groups and/or older people) have older devices that may not have the capability to support more advanced networks such as 4G/5G. They have 3G compatible devices and the decommissioning of this network may well lead to their inability to access emergency services; healthcare contacts; and social support networks (inc. friends or family).

As Irene from Mhor Collective said, newer technologies are also more expensive! With 2.5 million people unable to afford their mobile phone contract, the unaffordability of new technologies which are compatible with 4G or 5G may well result in a wider digital divide.

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It is likely to cause furthered isolated to already vulnerable individuals and communities, for some the switch off will leave them without any alternative means of communications. Potentially putting their lives at risk. There are geographic locations where 4g/5g signal is not available, meaning the 3g network is a lifeline within the community.

TEC is increasingly being used to support people to live independently for longer - simple tools, such as, Alexa devices, when connected to wifi can be utilised to help keep people safe, provide reminders and limit isolation from the outside world.

Alexa is just one example of many TEC devices that can support health and wellbeing.

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Within rural communities, the vulnerable are present but dispersed and therefore at greater risk of not receiving the care or consideration that they deserve. The 3G mobile network decommissioning presents issues on three fronts, the greater need of mobile connectivity in rural communities for those not able to access services directly, the more limited network coverage around rural communities, and the challenge of communicating to a dispersed group any forthcoming changes in service provision.

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Thanks for the opportunity to chat here! I truly understand the concern from the comments I read at the start of the conversation. On the other side, legacy network sunsets are not sudden processes, but “graceful” changes. Due to the better use of spectrum and to foster innovation, upgrades to newer technologies can happen in different times for different geographies, as well as in parts of the available spectrum. New technologies will never leave anyone behind, as a communication process happens a long time before the sunset.

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Fiona here from the patient support charity Kidney Care UK. 1. Vulnerable people tend not to be in touch with the mainstream, trust may be in short supply and experience with claiming benefits e.g. PIP is very challenging. So they may not know a change is coming or simply ignore
2. People may be vulnerable in different ways emotionally, health wise, economically, educationally so not one size. Also some of those we suppport have learning difficulties. People with kidney failure tend to have a disproportionate range of vulnerabilities, being dependent on a machine to stay alive.
3. Specifically blood test results are available on mobile platforms, such as something called ‘Patients Know best’. They help the person gain confidence in their care, and are very useful for those who have a transplant and less in touch with the hospital. Many we support use their phone rather than a laptop as it is cheaper. So access to blood test results may well be affected.
4. Diabetes monitors, kidney tests and much else use smartphones – future compatibility needs thinking about.
5. Some home dialysis machines use the internet to interact with providers. We don’t know what provision they have put in place and whether it is the hospitals or the manufacturers who have to make any adjustments.