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The End of 2G & 3G Technology in South Africa

The sun is setting on 2G and 3G Technology. Is this going to affect MobiNET? In short, NO!

Currently, MobiNET does not consume data for voice calls. Calls are made using normal GSM technology (2G), the same technology on which our emergency services operate.

However, the 2G and 3G shutdown is set to be rolled out throughout the country to free up frequency bands on the spectrum for newer technologies (4G and 5G).

What is GSM?

According to Wikipedia:

The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) is a standard developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to describe the protocols for second-generation (2G) digital cellular networks used by mobile devices such as mobile phones and tablets…

What is 2G and 3G?

2G refers to the second-generation cellular network, commercially launched on the GSM standard in Finland in 1991.

It offered several advantages over 1G, including:

  • Digitally encrypted phone conversations, at least between the mobile phone and the cellular base station but not necessarily in the rest of the network
  • Significantly more efficient use of the radio frequency spectrum enabling more users per frequency band.
  • Data services for mobile, starting with SMS text messages.

- Wikipedia

The sun is setting on 2G and 3G

2G allowed the various networks to provide services such as text messages, picture messages, and MMS (multimedia messages).

3G of course, is then the third generation of wireless mobile technology, offering faster data transfer and better voice quality.

Then why are they being shut down?

It is all about supply and demand.

According to MTN, “The benefits of switching off 3G include the option to re-farm the spectrum to more spectrally efficient technologies.

2G and 3G technologies are already decades old and there are better solutions available. 2G was originally designed to support only voice calls and extremely limited data. But there is only so much bandwidth to go around and the demand for 4G, 5G, LTE-M, and NB-IoT will continue to increase in the years to come.

Also, shutting down 2G and 3G will allow released funds from the constant maintenance of those networks, to be redirected towards improving 4G and 5G coverage.

With the arrival of VoLTE (Voice over Long Term Evolution) the need for 2G’s voice support has been removed. The 4G LTE rollout also closely matched that of the 2G coverage.

Voice over Long-Term Evolution (VoLTE) is an LTE high-speed wireless communication standard for mobile phones and data terminals, including Internet of things (IoT) devices and wearables. VoLTE has up to three times more voice and data capacity than older 3G UMTS and up to six times more than 2G GSM. It uses less bandwidth because VoLTE's packet headers are smaller than those of unoptimized VoIP/LTE. VoLTE calls are usually charged at the same rate as other calls.

- Wikipedia

What does this mean for MobiNET?

While our mobile network operator (MTN) will eventually be shutting their 2G network down, they will first decommission 3G on 31 December 2025: “We anticipate that it will be several years to come before MTN switches off 2G, taking into consideration the long tail of 2G use, and therefore MTN is considering a 3G turnoff, prior to 2G turnoff in the future.”

This is partly due to the many businesses that still rely on 2G to operate their legacy IoT and machine-to-machine systems. They will therefore need some time to make the switch to a low-power wide-area network (LPWAN or LPWA network) like LTE-M or NB-IoT.

MobiNET will continue to run on the same network as the Emergency Services, before and after the 2G shutdown.

In the meantime, technology is evolving and improving rapidly. It is likely that MobiNET will eventually be run over VoLTE, which is far superior to HSPA, 2G or 3G connections.

The eventual network change should not affect call costs and MobiNET will remain more reliable and more cost-effective than both VoIP AND LTE, therefore remaining the most cost-effective way to connect mobile teams...

The sun is setting on 2 G and 3G

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