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South Africa Sets Timeline for 2G and 3G Network Shutdown

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South Africa
South Africa

The South African government has established a new deadline for the shutdown of 2G and 3G mobile networks within the country, aiming to transition towards more advanced technologies.

Outlined in a recent policy document released on the eve of the general election, the government proposes to cease operation of these “legacy” networks no later than December 31, 2027, marking a significant shift in the country’s telecommunications landscape.

Key points from the new policy include:

  1. Device Approval Deadline: The communications regulator, Icasa, is instructed to halt the approval of 2G and 3G-only devices by September 30, 2024.
  2. Device Activation Deadline: Network operators are required to cease activating 2G and 3G-only devices by December 31, 2024. Beginning January 2025, only devices capable of connecting to 4G/LTE networks will be permitted.
  3. Infrastructure Shutdown Commencement: Network operators must commence the shutdown of their legacy 2G and 3G infrastructure starting from June 1, 2025.
  4. Completion Deadline: The total shutdown of 2G and 3G networks must be finalized by December 31, 2027.

The revised timeline reflects a more gradual approach compared to previous proposals, which were deemed too aggressive by mobile operators. The government emphasizes the importance of adapting to rapid technological advancements while ensuring a coordinated and less disruptive transition.

However, there are differing opinions on the approach. Nomvuyiso Batyi, CEO of the Association of Comms & Technology (ACT), advocates for an industry-led transition, urging the government to take a supportive rather than directive role. This approach, she argues, would better accommodate the needs of consumers and mitigate risks to communities and businesses still reliant on older technologies.

In addition to setting deadlines, the government plans to develop a “spectrum outlook” for South Africa, providing insights into market trends affecting spectrum use. This outlook, to be reviewed and updated every five years, aims to inform spectrum allocation decisions and guide regulatory processes.

As South Africa prepares for the transition towards newer technologies, the government seeks to balance the need for progress with the importance of inclusivity and strategic planning, ensuring a smooth evolution of the country’s telecommunications landscape.

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