20 September 2022
The South African government has put in place a roadmap to shut down the country's second generation (2G) and third generation (3G) mobile networks by March 2025, according to a plan contained in the Department of Communications' draft Next Generation Radio Spectrum Policy.
It suggests that by June 2023, licensing of 2G devices would be prohibited, while a ban on new connections or activation of 2G devices would follow in December, with a shutdown of 2G services and networks expected in the first half of 2024. A similar process for 3G would begin in the second half of 2024 and end in March 2025.
Last June, communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni posted the South African government's ambition to shut down 2G and 3G networks to free up spectrum for 5G and 4G services. To this end, it was initially planned to ban the import and sale of 2G devices in the rainbow nation by the end of February 2023, but this approach was eventually revised.
The South African government's approval of the policy comes about six months after the country held an auction of broadband telecom spectrum. As a result of the auction, telecom operators acquired spectrum in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 2.6 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands, suitable for the provision of mobile broadband services using 4G/LTE and 5G technologies.
While some telecom operators had already planned to switch off their 2G and/or 3G networks, some obstacles remain. These include the high cost of 4G and 5G compatible devices. In addition, 2G and 3G networks are still widely used for machine-to-machine and IoT (Internet of Things) applications.
In the latest edition of its "Mobility Report" released last June, Swedish technology company Ericsson predicts that 4G and 5G will account for 28% and 10% of the 1,060 million mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa in 2027, respectively. South Africa is expected to lead the adoption rate with 11 million 5G subscribers by 2025.