SOON 2g and 3g Network will be out.

African National Congress (ANC) member and South Africa’s communications and digital technologies minister, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, says the ANC 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 in her capacity as the party’s expert on media and ICT during a media briefing following the ANC’s 6th national policy conference, Ntshavheni said the ANC wanted the government to consult with the industry over a roadmap for shutting down the older network technologies.

But why, though?

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.

The cost factor

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.

Light at the end of the spectrum

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.

Zoom out: 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.