South Africa announces new deadlines for switching off 2G and 3G

The Department of Communications and Digital Transformation has extended the deadline for shutting down South Africa’s 2G and 3G networks by two years.

It had previously planned to shut down the 2G network by June 2024 and the 3G network by March 2025.

However, the total shutdown of both networks now has the same final deadline — 31 December 2027. Government plans to commence with the switch-off on 1 June 2025.

Moreover, mobile operators can decide in which order to switch off their legacy networks.

“The commencement for the shutdown of the 2G and 3G services is 1 June 2025. This deadline is meant to allow mobile network operators some level of discretion and for them to decide which network to switch off first,” the department told MyBroadband.

“Some operators have indicated that they will commence with the shut down of 3G in June 2024 in support of the policy.”

“The total shutdown of the 2G and 3G networks is scheduled for 31 December 2027,” it added.

However, the department notes that the dates depend on a risk impact assessment study that will be published within a year of the final publication of the next-generation radio frequency spectrum policy.

“Subsequent to the spectrum policy that was published in September 2022, the Department received substantive inputs from the public including industry members and services sectors,” it said.

“The Minister took into consideration public comments and inputs that requested an amendment to the timelines for the shutdown of the 2G and 3G networks.”

This indicates that the shutdown extension may have come due to stakeholder requests.

Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, former Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies

“Taking into consideration the above-mentioned facts, the Minister is still on track to ensure that the Spectrum Policy determinations are achieved,” the department added.

President Ramaphosa’s cabinet approved the final next-generation radio frequency spectrum policy for publication in late November 2023. The deadline for the document’s publication was initially set for 30 September 2023.

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies said Minister Mondli Gungubele fully intends to publish the policy as approved by cabinet.

However, the decision was made while the 2023 World Radiocommunication Conference was in session.

“The WRC-23 concluded on 15 December 2023. The outcomes of this conference have a major impact on the Spectrum Policy and the regulatory framework of South Africa,” the department said.

“The decision of cabinet was affirmed by the outcomes of the WRC-23.”

South Africa’s 2G and 3G network shutdowns aim to free up radio frequency spectrum for other uses while migrating South African residents to newer technologies.

In September 2022, former communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni published a draft of the policy that set out an ambitious timeline for shutting down the country’s legacy networks.

The policy included the first deadlines for the banning of licencing 2G and 3G devices by June 2023 and March 2024, respectively.

Government missed the June 2023 deadline for banning 2G devices and shifted it to 31 December of the same year, which it also appears to have missed.

An updated timeline for the shutdown of South Africa’s legacy networks is provided in the table below. Upcoming deadlines that have changed are marked in yellow. Already-missed deadlines are marked in red.

Deadline 2G 3G
1 December 2023 Original deadline: Publication of final next-generation spectrum policy
(Cabinet approved: 29 November 2023. New publication deadline unclear)
31 December 2023 Prohibit new connections or activation of 2G devices
31 March 2024 Shutting down 2G services Prohibit licencing 3G devices
30 June 2024 Shutting down 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 networks
1 June 2025 New deadline: Commence with shutting down 2G and 3G networks
31 December 2027 New deadline: Total shutdown of 2G and 3G networks

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South Africa announces new deadlines for switching off 2G and 3G