From 2G to 5G: how new mobile technology is replacing older generations

Changes at KPN in the coming years in the different generations of mobile networks

KPN is investing heavily in the complete renewal of its mobile network, which will improve the network experience for customers. Much more capacity and coverage will become available for KPN customers across the mobile network and the fast and stable 5G network will also be available throughout the Netherlands. Where new mobile technology is introduced, older generations are being taken out of service. Starting with 3G on 31 March 2022.

End of 3G
5G was added in 2020. Early next year, this will lead to the end of 3G, which fewer and fewer customers are using. Consequently, on 31 March 2022, KPN will stop definitively with the third-generation mobile network. 3G was launched in the Netherlands in 2003 and was in service for almost twenty years. It ensured the breakthrough of the smartphone, mobile internet became a success, and, thanks to the introduction of 4G, everyone could enjoy mobile broadband. 4G, and later 5G, have rendered third-generation mobile technology obsolete. It is hardly used and as the data needs of customers are only increasing, KPN will use the 3G frequencies and capacities for 4G and 5G.

From 3G to 4G or 5G
KPN is renewing its entire mobile network, making 4G better and 5G available; 3G users can switch to these networks. A very limited number of customers currently only use 3G, for example if they do not yet have a 4G- or 5G-enabled device. KPN is giving these customers some extra time to make the transition to the latest technology without any worries. Initially, 3G was scheduled to be switched off on 1 January 2022. Any customers that do not make the transition will automatically revert to 2G from April 2022, which still provides excellent service for voice traffic.

2G will continue to exist
In contrast to 3G, 2G is still relatively widely used for e.g. voice connections and business applications, such as smart meters. KPN’s 2G network will remain available and in service in the coming years, until December 2025. KPN will improve the voice quality by introducing HD voice on 2G, making it equivalent to 3G voice quality. The best network experience is achieved by using VoLTE via 4G or 5G.

‘In-band’ DTMF stops
At the same time, KPN will stop supporting the outdated DTMF technology from 1 October 2021. A distinction is made here between ‘in-band’ and ‘out-of-band’ DTMF, and so only KPN support for ‘in-band‘ will disappear. From that moment, the operation of in-band DTMF for 2G and 3G will change and this could potentially impact users. This outdated technology, which is also known as ‘tone dialing’, is still used in a small number of cases, e.g. for gates or barriers and for controlling ventilation systems or lighting. Alternatives are widely available, including through KPN’s wide range of IoT networks, such as LTE-M.