South Africa will ban the import and distribution of 2G devices by the end of February 2023, communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni announced.
Speaking at the 2022 World Telecommunications Development Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, Ntshavheni said the ban would help South Africa shut down its 2G and 3G networks by 2025.
This is to enable a robust program to modernize South Africa’s networks, Ntshavheni said.
He said South Africa’s mobile network operators will fully roll out 4G and 5G networks by 2025.
The minister explained that these moves complement SA Connect, South Africa’s broadband connectivity unit.
“SA Connect’s goal is to ensure that all South Africans have access to the internet by 2024,” said Ntshavheni, adding that the program is driven by four initiatives.
Among these is satellite communication, with Ntshavheni announcing that South Africa is ready to launch its own satellite.
“The satellite will address both media and broadband connectivity goals and strengthen our technology and data sovereignty,” he said.
The other three SA Connect initiatives are all focused on connectivity in publicly owned facilities.
First, South Africa has imposed social obligations on mobile network operators to connect all public schools, health facilities, public libraries, government service centers and traditional authorities by the end of June 2025.
These obligations are attached to the spectrum licenses that operators bid in the March spectrum auctionwhich raised nearly Rand 14.5 billion for the South African national tax authorities.
Second, SA Connect aims to connect all remaining government sites by the end of March 2024.
“This goal is central to our government digitization program,” said Ntshavheni.
“The digitization program aims to get 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 aims to roll out 33,000 community Wi-Fi hotspots to provide Internet connectivity to over 5.8 million households.
“With the rapid growth of Wi-Fi in integrating and offloading mobile data traffic from fixed broadband, there is a growing need for the ITU to consider increased spectrum usage protection for Wi-Fi services. including the possible license of the Wi-Fi spectrum, ”Ntshavheni said.
The World Conference on Telecommunications Development is organized by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
“The broadband connectivity program will be implemented across emerging small and medium-sized enterprises such as Internet service providers, wireless access providers and mobile virtual network operators,” said Ntshavheni.
“Our intention is to create a new technology industry. For this program, the South African government will invest over 2.5 billion Rand over a period of 36 months ”.
Turning off 2G and 3G is no small task
MTN said it will likely shut down its 3G network before it can turn off 2G. Its 2G network remains widely used for machine-to-machine applications.
Vodacom had previously announced its intention to do so shut down its 2G network by 2024.
However, Cell C said the prices of 4G and 5G compatible devices were a significant barrier to shutting down old networking technologies.
In 2021, Vodacom called for regulatory intervention for stop the sale of cheap phones only 2G in South Africa.
These devices are sold through independent retail chains such as PEP, Ackermans and Mr Price.
This week, Mr. Price announced that his revenue in the telecommunications segment exceeded one billion rand for the first time – up 34% year on year to R1.2 billion.
The government crackdown on 2G devices in South Africa could have a significant impact on the performance of these successful independent cellphone retailers.