Will the 3G shutdown affect remote travel communication?

by Peter Davidson on Apr 10, 2024

The short answer is yes it will.

First, let’s clarify how our view is formed. We have lived remotely for 12 years, sadly "Remote Communications" in Australia is still 20km from the Pacific Highway just one hour north of Newcastle. We have 3G/4G Telstra bolstered via Cel-Fi Go (which does not boost Data) Three years Starlink data changed our lives.

In our travels and managing EPIRBhire for 23 years, we have experienced the shutdown of CDMA and taken a keen interest in the signal behaviour both on land and offshore sailing with various mobile handsets with and without external antenna systems.

Our expectation when 3G is removed is the mobile phone range coverage will be greatly reduced in remote areas, particularly in areas that are not dead flat. Why is this? The answer in basic terms is very straightforward. With the lower frequencies of 2G then 3G, the signal travels further and tends to flow over hills and through trees. For those working in highrise offices you would have experienced the following..... 3G would still tend to work while in the lift, and 4G would cut out when the doors close. The 5G network will be similar, but more extreme, in some cases it may not even work in the lift lobby. 4G and now 5G have faster data speeds via with the higher frequency but the higher frequency very limited in it ability to punch through obstacles to your handset and will have a much shorter range, hence the need for so many more 5G towers in the city and urban areas. 

The 3G experience will be a repeat across rural Australia when CDMA/2G was shut down. Coverage range was reduced if not lost altogether. The lack of service from the new 3G was extended due to complaints with more towers built over the following years. Travellers and rural residents found large gaps in phone reception along major highways that were eventually restored to a reasonable distance from towns. It has taken over 20 years for the 3G coverage to be what it is today. It was working OK, slow on data but you could call.

When Telstra 3G goes in mid 2024, the black spots within rural communities will rise substantially, and the range reception between towns will be drastically reduced. This situation will more than likely be “Newsworthy” by late 2024, improvements will be talked about and statistics will be thrown around saying everything is just fine. A Telstra spokesperson said in a statement last week "In fact, 3G accounts for just 1% of our total network traffic” This statement is so misleading… 1% is all rural Australia... everything will not be fine. More BS statistics to come.

Tip: Do you have one of the following phones: iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S, or the Samsung Galaxy S5 and S6, they are labelled as 4G, but they use 3G for voice, so you will not be able to make calls after July.

We expect we will be busier than ever suppling Satellite phones over the next few years.

Feed back is most welcome. sales@buyasatphone.com.au

Thank you and regards,

Peter Davidson