Vodafone UK announced it will continue to phase out 3G next month following successful switch-off pilots in two areas of the country earlier this year, as it pushes for strengthened 4G and 5G coverage.

The company stated it had switched off 3G in Plymouth and Basingstoke in February, with plans to extend the shutdown to Hull, Oxford and Greater London in June.

It will then target the south of the country later in the year.

Customers will still be able to use its 2G connectivity for calls and texts as the network currently covers 99 per cent of UK population.

Andrea Dona, Vodafone UK chief network officer, said the use of 3G has “dropped significantly” as most of its customers have moved on to 4G.

He noted less than 4 per cent of data is used on Vodafone’s 3G network in comparison to more than 30 per cent in 2016.

Retiring 3G in the UK means the operator can focus on “strengthening and improving our 4G and 5G coverage”, Dona added, citing the networks’ economic benefits.

Vodafone claimed the 3G phase-out also forms part of its wider strategy to reach net zero for its UK operation by 2027, stating 5G is more energy-efficient.

Additionally, the company also activated campaigns around digital skills to ensure customers are well prepared for its national 3G shutdown.

Earlier this year, Ofcom issued a 20-page guide for UK operators to phase out their 2G and 3G networks.

Vodafone is the first UK operator to progress its 3G switch-off plot. Rivals EE and parent BT previously announced plans to begin deactivating the network in 2024, as with 3 UK, in line with a joint agreement with regualator Ofcom.