South Africa plans to shut down legacy mobile networks 2G and 3G. The country’s Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni recently proposed a phase-wise plan to switch off the two older generation networks by 2025 and also ban devices that only support them in an effort to free up resources for the next-generation cellular standard.
The plan is included in the ministry’s radio frequency spectrum policy document. The decision has been approved by the country’s cabinet.
“Radio frequency spectrum is a finite natural resource that is vital to the growth of South Africa’s digital economy and communication infrastructure,” Cabinet said in a statement.
“The proposed policy intends to support the spectrum allocation and licensing for fixed mobile; broadcasting; aeronautical and marine; research and development; community access, and other relevant industries,” President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet ministers said. “The policy also seeks to promote equity and fair allocation to contribute towards the transformation of the sector and accessibility of digital connectivity even in outlying parts of the country.”
Besides killing the two networks, the country also plans to amplify its efforts by banning imports and circulation of 2G devices by end-February 2023.
South Africa is not alone though. French telecom giant Orange is also shutting down legacy networks while Europe leads on 2G and 3G network shut down. It’s a global trend likely to accelerate in the coming months and years.
The draft policy sets the timeline for closing the 2G and 3G in South Africa.
South Africa sets deadline to shut down 2G and 3G
|South Africa’s legacy network shut down the timeline||2G||3G|
|30 June 2023||Stop licensing 2G devices||–|
|31 December 2023||halt new activation of 2G devices||–|
|31 March 2024||The shutdown of all 2G services||Stop licensing 3G devices|
|30 June 2024||The shutdown of the 2G network||–|
|30 September 2024||–||Stop new activation of 3G devices|
|31 December 2024||–||The shutdown of all 3G services|
|30 March 2025||–||The shutdown of the 3G network|
But given the economic viability of the end-users and their long-habituated use patterns, phasing out the widely available networks is easier said than done. Cell C, one of the country’s largest telco has said the high cost of 4G and 5G devices poses a challenge to forsaking older networks.
The barrier doesn’t end there. MTN, another operator said that many of its customers use 2G networks for Machine-to-Machine (IoT) use cases. So, it proposed that switching off 3G is easier for the telco than 2G. Likewise, Viacom will turn off the 2G network by 2024.
The arrival of new technology starts the beginning of older ones. 5G will eventually push back further expansion of older cellular networks and turn them obsolete. Meanwhile, 4G itself will struggle to be relevant as the 5G ecosystem becomes cheaper and wider.