HomeTechnology3G network phase-out could leave some vulnerable

3G network phase-out could leave some vulnerable

Australia’s 3G phone network is in the process of being decommissioned. If you’re over 50 and not much of a ‘tech head’, that news might not resonate with you. But depending on the phone you use, perhaps it should. Because there are phones out there – even 4G ones – that may not have access to triple zero after decommissioning.

The number of phones affected is limited, but it would pay to check yours. In my experience older people are the ones most likely to own older phones. And in many cases it’s older people who are most likely to need to call triple zero.

Though the number of affected phones is limited, it is not insignificant. One estimate puts the number of handsets affected at 740,000. 

While Telstra and Optus will be closing their 3G networks later this year, Australia’s third major telecommunications provider, TPG, has already done so. If you are a TPG customer and unsure about your phone’s triple zero capabilities, prompt action is recommended.

What should TPG customers do if they have a 3G or affected 4G phone?

If you’re a TPG customer with a 3G phone, you will already know the 3G network has been switched off. You will be unable to make regular phone calls. However, a small number of early generation 4G phones used the 3G network for emergency calls.

The good news is, you can still make emergency 000 calls from these phones – for now. Although TPG switched off 3G in January, emergency calls will still be connected through the Telstra or Optus 3G network. 

The bad news is, those 3G networks will soon close too. Telstra is scheduled to drop 3G first, on 30 June this year, with Optus slated for a 1 September 2024 shutdown. It’s possible those deadlines could be extended. TPG’s original closure date was slated for 15 December last year but did not occur until 30 January 2024.

However, relying on an extension for the other two networks may be risky. If you’re unsure, acting now will ensure you won’t lose vital emergency coverage.

How do I know if my phone will lose triple zero coverage?

On Sunday, minister for communications Michelle Rowland announced a working group  to support the planned 3G to 4G switchover. It 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 working group will collaborate with telcos to identify affected customers. It has also pledged to “amplify messages to ensure the community is aware of the switchover”.

For now, the ministerial media release advises: “Telcos are best placed to advise whether an individual’s phone may be affected.” It says each provider will be reaching out directly to affected customers.

For those who’d prefer to take action before being contacted, the minister has provided starting points for each telco.  These are:

Do you have an ‘old’ phone (manufactured before 2019)? Have you been contacted by your service provider about the 3G network closure? Let us know via the comments section below. 

Also read: How to recycle your old mobile phone

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigaczhttps://www.patreon.com/AndrewGigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


  1. Everyone with a 3G mobile would’ve received a letter from their service provider concerning the ending of the 3G network some months ago.
    Suitable current Generation mobile phones can be purchased from the local Coles, Woolworths or Aldi for under $200.
    Any ‘phone that can make a 4G call can call triple zero (000). Four keystrokes is all that a person needs to do to connect.

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