South Africa will ban the import and distribution of 2G devices by the end of February 2023, Communications Minister Khumbudzo Ntsawheni said.
Speaking at the 2022 World Telecommunication Development Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, Ntsawheni said the ban would help South Africa shut down its 2G and 3G networks by 2025.
This should provide a credible upgrade program for South Africa’s networks, Ntsavheni said.
She said that by 2025 South African mobile operators will have fully deployed 4G and 5G networks.
The Minister explained that these steps are in addition to SA Connect, South Africa’s broadband connectivity programme.
“SA Connect’s goal is to bring Internet access to all South Africans by 2024,” Ntsawheni said, adding that the program is based on four initiatives.
These include satellite communications, and Ntsawheni has announced that South Africa is ready to launch its own satellite.
“The satellite will address the challenges of both media and broadband, as well as reinforce the sovereignty of our technology and data,” she said.
All three of SA Connect’s other initiatives are connected to providing communications at publicly owned facilities.
First, South Africa has placed social obligations on mobile operators to connect all public schools, healthcare facilities, public libraries, public service centers and traditional governments by the end of June 2025.
These obligations are attached to spectrum licenses that operators Participation in the March Spectrum Auctionwhich raised about R14.5 billion for South Africa’s National Fiscus.
Second, SA Connect aims to connect all remaining government sites by the end of March 2024.
“This goal is critical to our government digitization program,” Ntsavheni said.
“The digitalization program aims to have 80% of our citizen-facing services online by 2025, with the government planning to go paperless by the end of March 2023.”
Third, the government intends to deploy 33,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots to provide Internet connectivity to more than 5.8 million households.
“With the rapid growth in the use of Wi-Fi to supplement and offload mobile data traffic from fixed broadband access, ITU increasingly needs to consider greater spectrum protection for Wi-Fi services, including possible licensing of Wi-Fi spectrum,” said Ntsaveni.
The World Telecommunication Development Conference is hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
“The broadband connectivity program will be implemented through emerging and SMEs such as ISPs, wireless access providers and mobile virtual network operators,” Ntsavheni said.
“Our intention is to create a new technology industry. Through this program, the South African government is investing over 2.5 billion rand over 36 months.”
Disabling 2G and 3G is not an easy task
MTN has said it will likely shut down its 3G network before it can retire 2G. Its 2G network is still widely used for machine-to-machine applications.
Earlier, Vodacom announced plans turn off your 2G network by 2024.
However, Cell C said that the prices of 4G and 5G compatible devices are a major barrier to turning off older network technologies.
In 2021, Vodacom called on regulators to intervene to stop selling cheap mobile phones with 2G only in South Africa.
These devices are sold through independent retailers such as PEP, Ackermans and Mr Price.
This week, Mr. Price announced that the revenue of his telecommunications segment exceeded a billion rand for the first time – growth by 34% year on year to 1.2 billion rubles.
Government crackdown on 2G devices in South Africa could significantly impact these successful independent cell phone retailers.