UK operator Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) became the final operator in the market to outline its plans to switch off its 3G network, targeting the end of 2025 for the last sites to be shut down.

The operator plans to start taking 3G sites offline in 2025. As with other operators taking the steps, it cited benefits involving reducing energy consumption and being able to focus on deployment of 4G and 5G.

During 2022, 3G carried less than 4 per cent of data on its network, continuing what the operator described as a considerable fall over “recent years”.

Despite the low usage level, the company noted the network accounted for 11 per cent of its total energy consumption.

VMO2 added its 4G network covers 99 per cent of the population with 5G expected to be accessible to half by the end of this year.

Voice traffic and SMS will also be available using 2G until its switch-off by 2033, a government mandated target.

VMO2 CTO Jeanie York said it will communicate with customers to advise them of “any steps they should take in the next 18 months”, adding most will need to take no action.

The operator is the last of four in the UK to detail a timeline for the demise of 3G.

BT Group and 3 UK are targeting 2024 for their closures, while Vodafone UK commenced a wider phase-out in June with a goal for completion of early 2024.