Telkom will become the first national telecommunications operator in South Africa to switch off its legacy 2G network.
The company will terminate 2G services in March 2020, CEO Sipho Maseko told TechCentral in an interview on Tuesday.
The company has about 250 000 2G-only users left on its network, out of a total subscriber base of 11.5 million, Maseko said. It has migrated most 2G customers to 3G.
The move will allow Telkom to free up spectrum in the 1.8GHz band, which will be redeployed for mobile broadband — either 3G or 4G/LTE.
Because it’s the newest mobile network in South Africa, Telkom is fortunate that, unlike rivals Vodacom, MTN and Cell C, it has never had a large base of 2G customers.
In August, Vodacom said it also wants to switch off its 25-year-old 2G voice network to focus on newer broadband technologies.
“We are going to focus on switching 2G off (in South Africa) and seeing if we can get buy-in for that,” Vodacom Group chief technology officer Andries Delport said at the time.
Vodacom won’t, however, be able to switch off its 2G network entirely as the technology is still used by emergency services and for other applications. But migrating voice users onto more modern technologies will allow it to reduce the amount of spectrum it needs for 2G to a “thin layer” of just 2-3MHz.
The move could prove tricky, though, given that more than 30% of devices connected to Vodacom’s network are still 2G-only — mainly cheap phones meant for voice calling only.
Vodacom is keen to repurpose its 900MHz spectrum assignment to improve indoor coverage for 4G services. It will also make it more affordable to extend 4G coverage to more rural areas. — (c) 2019 NewsCentral Media