Telstra to provide free phone upgrades to help 3G transition

Telstra free phone upgrade 3G network shutdown
Image: Telstra.
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Telstra will provide disadvantaged customers with free phone upgrades as the telco prepares to shut down its 3G network.

Roughly 12,000 handsets will be provided as part of Telstra’s initiative in the coming weeks. According to the telco’s announcement, some of the eligible recipients include those “in difficult situations” in addition to elderly and rural customers.

Once Telstra shuts down its 3G network, only 4G and 5G phones will be able to make calls and send text messages. Some early 4G phones won’t be able to make emergency calls either, with VoLTE technology required to contact triple-zero.

Originally, Telstra planned to end 3G connectivity on 30 June. However, it pushed the deadline back to 31 August to give users more time to upgrade devices. Meanwhile, Optus’ 3G shutdown is scheduled for September. Vodafone already ceased 3G operations in late 2023.

Who is eligible for a Telstra 3G phone upgrade?

For those wondering who qualifies for an upgraded handset, Telstra will contact individuals directly over the next few weeks. Telstra hasn’t specified the exact phone it’s providing, although it’s likely to be the telco’s branded handsets made by ZTE.

The telco also elaborated on who it’s providing upgrades to, alongside details about its financial assistance program:

“These customers are in difficult situations, and facing things such as financial hardship, or recovering from a natural disaster. Some of these customers also depend on a working phone because they are living with a life-threatening medical condition (our ‘Priority Assistance’ customers). Many of these customers are also over 80 years old and living in regional areas, which can make visiting our stores challenging.”

Major Brendan Nottle from The Salvation Army said Telstra’s upgrade program “will benefit the most vulnerable members of our community”.

“Ensuring that every Australian, from any background or level of income, can take part in our modern digital society is crucial,” Major Nottle said. “A phone can be a gateway to social inclusion, community connection and support, and with the upcoming closure of 3G networks in Australia it is important for us to reach out and ensure that this can continue for everyone.”

Separately, Telstra is contacting more than 150,000 customers who still need to upgrade before the 3G shutdown. You can also contact a dedicated number to find out if your phone will work after 31 August.

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