South Africa’s proposed plan to shut down 2G and 3G — including banning 2G devices

Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has proposed a roadmap for shutting down South Africa’s 2G and 3G networks by 2025.

The plan is contained in the ministry’s next-generation radio frequency spectrum draft policy.

Cabinet approved the policy on Wednesday, allowing it to be published for public comment.

“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 on Thursday.

“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.”

The Government Gazette containing the draft policy has not yet been published. MyBroadband obtained a copy of the approved policy from the minister’s office.

Ntshavheni previously said during an address at the 2022 World Telecommunication Development Conference that South Africa would shut down its 2G and 3G networks by 2025.

To achieve this, the plan was to ban the importation and distribution of 2G devices by end-February 2023.

This has been pushed back by a few months, and the plan to ban device imports has been replaced by one to prohibit further licensing.

The draft policy sets out the proposed timelines for sunsetting 2G and 3G in South Africa as follows:

Deadline 2G 3G
30 June 2023 Prohibit licensing 2G devices
31 December 2023 Prohibit new connections or activation of 2G devices
31 March 2024 Shutdown of 2G services Prohibit licensing 3G devices
30 June 2024 Shutdown of 2G networks
30 September 2024 Prohibit new connections or activation of 3G devices
31 December 2024 Shutdown of 3G services
30 March 2025 Shutdown of 3G network

Shutting off South Africa’s 2G and 3G networks is no easy task.

Cell C has said the prices of 4G and 5G-compatible devices were a significant barrier to switching off older network technologies.

MTN previously told MyBroadband that some of its clients rely heavily on its 2G network for machine-to-machine (Internet of Things) applications.

Because of this, it would be easier for MTN to shut off its 3G network than 2G. As a result, MTN said it would likely switch off 3G before turning off its 2G network.

Vodacom previously announced plans to turn off its 2G network by 2024.

Now read: eSIM support in South Africa — A sad affair of limited options

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South Africa’s proposed plan to shut down 2G and 3G — including banning 2G devices