Optus has taken the first steps towards shutting down its 2G network, switching off Western Australia and the Northern Territory ahead of closing the rest of the network in August.
The telco is decommissioning 2G in two tranches in a bid to test the transition process on a limited number of customers before progressing to a full shutdown.
WA and NT were switched off on April 3; the second tranche will see SA, QLD, VIC, NSW, Tasmania and the ACT lose 2G services from August 1.
“Our priority throughout this process has been to ensure that customers on our 2G network are able to enjoy a smooth transition,” an Optus spokesperson told iTnews.
“Our 2G customer base is smallest in NT and WA so by working with this smaller segment of our 2G customer base, we’re able to monitor closely any short-term effects that the transition may place on our 3G and 4G networks and customer service teams.
“This process will allow us to apply learnings to the rest of the 2G mobile network shut down when it occurs later in the year.”
Optus is the second of Australia’s three mobile telcos to begin shuttering its 2G network. Telstra shut off its mainland 2G network on December 1 last year, while Vodafone will wait until September 30 of this year.
All carriers have seen 2G usage – and user numbers – dwindle in recent years.
Telstra said when it first announced its intention to shutter the 2G network back in 2014, it was already carrying less than 1 percent of all network traffic.
Vodafone’s 2G network meanwhile carries about 0.07 percent of total data traffic and two percent of total voice traffic.
That has allowed carriers in recent years to refarm 2G spectrum to underpin more advanced services, such as 4G.
Come the end of September, while there may not be any mainland 2G services left, Telstra’s 2G network will remain operational on Christmas Island.
Telstra marked its mainland 2G shutdown with a “retirement event” and symbolic actions, including the last customer call on the network, which was made to Telstra CEO Andy Penn.
It’s not yet known how Optus and Vodafone intend to formally call time on their respective 2G services.
2G services were first introduced in Australia back in 1993. Australia’s mobile telcos are now focused on the forthcoming 5G standard, which is expected to be widely commercially available in 2020.