September 9, 2022
A plan for South Africa to shut down its 2G and 3G networks over the next three years has met with mixed reactions from local analysts. Most feel that shutting down 2G is a smart move, but some see a shutdown of 3G in the Southern African nation as unrealistic in the medium term.
"I don't think it's viable to turn off 3G for the foreseeable future. 2G yes but 3G no," said Arthur Goldstuck, analyst and CEO of World Wide Worx.
The news comes as the South African government this week published a draft policy document that proposed the shutdown of the country's 2G network by June 2024 and a sunset of 3G by March 2025.
Figure 1: The South African government wants the country's 2G network switched off in June 2024 and 3G in March 2025.
(Source: Image by wirestock on Freepik.)
"3G still provides a decent experience for basic uses. A vast proportion of handsets in the market are 3G handsets, so I can't see that happening. That's equivalent to the digital migration of TV, which has taken 14 years and I suspect the same is going to happen in this regard," Goldstuck added.
However, the South African government believes it's time for aging technology to be retired to boost the deployment of newer technologies such as 5G.
"Acknowledging that spectrum is a finite resource, the adoption of more advanced technologies for economic growth must be matched by a deliberate program to retire old technologies to ensure more spectrum is made available for the country to achieve our objective of offering all South Africans high-speed broadband," said Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni at a press briefing late on Thursday.
Data from research company Omdia shows that at the end of 2021 only about 4% of South Africa's mobile subscriptions were 2G, but 60% were still 3G.
The main reason for switching off 2G and 3G would be to free up spectrum which can be used instead for more advanced technologies like 4G and 5G.
But some analysts think government might be throwing the baby out with the bath water by sunsetting 3G too soon when it remains a dominant technology in the country.
— This is an excerpt from a longer article on our sister site, Connecting Africa. Read the full story here.
— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa
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