Spark New Zealand outlined plans to shut down its 3G network by the end of 2025 to free up low-band spectrum to extend 5G service in rural areas.

The operator stated 4 per cent of total network data traffic is carried on 3G, which runs on the 850MHz band, with voice calls on the legacy network launched in 2009 down by 70 per cent since 2019.

Low-band spectrum allows operators to deliver capacity to a wider area than higher bands, making it ideal for cost-effectively reaching customers in remote locations.

Spark stated “the vast majority” of its mobile customers “will not notice any change.”

Its 4G network reaches 98 per cent of the population.

COO Mark Beder said Spark will continue to invest in its 4G and 5G networks ahead of the closure to improve LTE coverage in the few areas where only 3G is available.

He noted Spark’s 3G network enabled New Zealanders to use the internet on their phones for the first time, adding “while it’s served us very well, 14 years on, newer mobile generations are far better suited to meet today’s needs”.

Beder acknowledge some customers still connect to 3G in areas where 4G is available, which is mostly due to the age of the device. Since some older models can’t make voice calls over 4G and fall back to 3G, he said it’s important they’re replaced ahead of the 3G closure.

Other customers may have the capability on their phone but need to enable it in their settings.