Switch off, here’s who will have to change the SIM card of the phone

Some users of the phone operator TIM are receiving an SMS inviting them to go to the store to change the SIM card: here's why and why they won't be the only ones to have to change the card

In these days several TIM users are receiving an SMS inviting them to go to the store to replace the SIM card with a new one. The SMS is real, it actually comes from TIM and if the user doesn't go to replace the SIM as requested, he may have more than one problem starting from 2022.

The reason for all this is the "3G Switch Off", which has nothing to do with that of digital terrestrial: all phone companies that have a 3G network are going to turn it off, forever. There are two reasons for this choice: an economic one and a technical one. The date by which the Switch Off of 3G will be completed, as reported by MondoMobileWeb, is April 2022 and the TIM SMS serves precisely to warn the operator's customers of this important news. To be precise, TIM users with SIM cards with a capacity lower than 128 Kb have been contacted: in fact, they will be the ones to suffer the greatest repercussions after the 3G network switch off.

Why operators switch off 3G

The frequencies for the UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) network, better known with the commercial name of 3G or third generation network, have been assigned by the Italian State with a public auction in 2000. At that time the licenses had a duration of 15 years.

The 3G switch-off, therefore, should have happened already in 2015, but it has been postponed to 2022. That is, to next year: there are only a few months left until the expiration of the concessions, which no operator has asked to extend further for the two reasons already mentioned.

The first is that operators have already spent, in 2018, a total of 6.5 billion euros to obtain the 5G frequencies (which will cause the "refarming" of the digital terrestrial frequencies, which will impact local broadcasters and, perhaps, even Sky channels broadcast on DTT.

The second is technical: not only is the 3G network no longer needed, given the wide diffusion of 4G and the progressive expansion of 5G, but leaving 3G repeaters active could even prevent operators from activating 5G ones.

This is because, in Italy, the regulation on electromagnetic emissions of cellular repeaters is one of the most stringent in the world: limits are very low and must be calculated for each transmission site (in practice for each tower or pylon on which repeaters are positioned).

This means that, if you leave on 3G repeaters together with 2G ones (that will not be turned off), 4G and 5G ones, you will exceed emission limits on each single site. One network had to be sacrificed and the 3G network was chosen.

Who needs to change SIM and why

In view of all this TIM (but the other operators will also do so, each with different timing) has warned owners of old SIM cards with less than 128 Kb: go to the store to replace it. The replacement has a price of 15 euros, but then will be credited back to the new SIM.

TIM, in a special page of its online help, explains what will happen to those who do not change the old SIM, but also to those who have an old phone, not even compatible with 4G.

In practice, 3G phones will be able to continue making calls, surfing and sending and receiving SMS, but using the very slow 2G network (which is not being discontinued because it is the most reliable and robust).

G 4G phones that, however, are not compatible with VoLTE (Voice over LTE) technology and that today use the 3G network for calls, will be switched to the 2G network for calls. TIM adds that "the ability to surf while making a voice call will no longer be guaranteed".

All those who have a SIM below 128 Kb, however, will no longer be able to use the mobile network and, for this, are strongly encouraged to go to the store to replace it. In these cases, the user keeps his phone number.