South African Communications and Digital Technologies Minister, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, says the government wants South Africa to start working on an official timeline to shut down 2G and 3G connectivity to modernise the country’s mobile networks.
Speaking at journalists at a media briefing following the 6th national policy conference of the ruling party, African National Congress(ANC), Ntshavheni said the ANC wanted the government to consult with the industry over a roadmap for shutting down the older network technologies.
According to MyBroadband, the 2 newer technologies are more spectrally efficient as they can support greater network capacity and higher throughput with the same bandwidth, meaning that in theory, shutting down 2G and 3G will improve broadband quality and make data cheaper for all South Africans.
After shutoff, network operators can employ the frequency spectrum occupied by 2G and 3G signals to provide faster and better connectivity using 4G and 5G.
In June this year, Ntshavheni announced that South Africa would ban importing and distributing 2G devices by the end of February 2023. The ban, according to the minister, would enable a robust programme to modernise South Africa’s mobile networks.
However, the issue is that 2G is still vital for smaller devices with basic connectivity, such as machine-to-machine and internet-of-things (IoT) communication.
According to mobile network operator Vodacom, South Africa has become a dumping ground for cheap devices that use obsolete 2G tech, making the transition to modern networks more difficult.
To ensure that a fast switch to 4G does not disadvantage households still stuck with old 2G and 3G devices, Vodacom has been pushing sales of 4G devices for less than R1,000, including those under the Kicka and Tecno brands.
South Africans will be hoping the switch will not take as long as the switch from analogue to digital broadcast systems which has been dragging on for over 15 years.