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Government Shuts Down 2G and 3G

Government Shuts Down 2G and 3G

The African National Congress wants South Africa to start working on an official timeline to shut down 2G and 3G connectivity to modernise the country’s mobile networks. This is according to Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, ANC member and South Africa’s communications minister.

Speaking in her capacity as the ANC’s expert on media and ICT during a media briefing following the ANC’s 6th national policy conference, Ntshavheni said the ANC wanted the government to consult with the industry over a roadmap for shutting down the older network technologies.

In conjunction with this, the party has called for an industry roadmap for a wider rollout of 4G and 5G in the country to ensure rural households are not left behind. Ntshavheni’s comments come after she announced recently that South Africa would ban importing and distributing 2G devices by end-February 2023.

She told the 2022 World Telecommunication Development Conference that this would help enable a robust programme to modernise South Africa’s mobile networks.

Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies

Network operators can employ the frequency spectrum occupied by 2G and 3G signals to provide faster and better connectivity using 4G and 5G. The newer technologies are more spectrally efficient. They can support greater network capacity and higher throughput with the same bandwidth.

Shutting down 2G and 3G will improve broadband quality and make data cheaper for all South Africans. Worldwide, major network carriers are working towards shutting down their 2G and 3G networks to free up the limited bandwidth available.

Among the notable territories with significant progress is the United States, where most networks have shut down their 2G and 3G networks. By the end of the year, T-Mobile plans to be the last major operator to switch off its 2G network, while Verizon will be the last to shutter its 3G service.

Vodacom previously said it aimed to shut down its 2G services by 2024, while MTN planned to first decommission its 3G network by 2025.

“We anticipate that it will be several years to come before MTN switches off 2G, taking into consideration the long tail of 2G use, and therefore MTN is considering a 3G turnoff, prior to 2G turnoff in the future,” MTN said.

That is because 2G is still vital for smaller devices with basic connectivity, such as machine-to-machine and Internet-of-Things (IoT) communication. Telkom has already cut 80% of its 3G network as of January 2022 and previously said it would decommission its 2G network by March 2020.

But South Africa has another major stumbling block to overcome before the switch can happen — device affordability. Vodacom lamented that the country had become a dumping ground for cheap devices that use obsolete 2G tech, making the transition to modern networks more difficult.

MyBroadband was recently unable to find affordable smartphones with 4G selling for less than R500 per month.

With poor households stuck with older cellular devices, a fast switch to 3G and 4G would leave many disconnected.

Vodacom has been pushing sales of 4G devices for less than R1,000, including those under the Kicka and Tecno brands.

These devices are often partially subsidised by the networks. That forces them to network-lock the handsets for a set period, allowing for recouping some of the costs through subscriber expenditure on airtime.


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