UK regulator Ofcom outlined its expectations of operators when switching off 3G networks, citing a need to clearly communicate with customers and give sufficient notice for users of a range of soon-to-be unsupported devices.

Three of the country’s four operators have already indicated timelines for the end of 3G services, with Virgin Media O2 the outlier. Vodafone UK is set to begin a phased switch-off later this month, with BT’s EE and 3 UK set to follow suit in 2024.

Ahead of the moves, Ofcom published its four “key expectations” on how operators handle the issue to minimise the impact on customers.

It explained there should be no reduction in mobile coverage through upgrading sites to newer technologies and noted an expectation operators add notifications of the end of device support into contract summaries.

The regulator also wants customers who need to replace their mobile handset to be given at least three-to-six-months notice with clear communication through a number of channels to raise awareness.

Vulnerable customers, it warned, may need additional support, which “might include” discounts on replacement devices.

For users of other devices, for example payment terminals and telecare alarms, Ofcom said there should be a longer notice period.

“We expect mobile providers to make every effort to identify these services, helping to raise awareness so that relevant suppliers have sufficient time to update their devices and consumers do not lose access to vital services,” it added.

In respective statements announcing sunsets of 3G, operators pledged to support customers through the process.