Optus considers future of 2G mobile services

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Optus considers future of 2G mobile services

As Singapore parent pulls the plug.

Optus is reviewing the future of its 2G GSM mobile services after parent Singtel opted to shut down its Singapore 2G network.

Singtel will end 2G voice, messaging and data services in Singapore in April 2017, citing consumers’ “increased demand for mobile data and faster access speeds” and the high uptake of faster 3G and 4G services.

“In the last few years, mobile operators have been conducting outreach programs to encourage customers to migrate to newer networks,” Singtel said in a statement earlier this week.

“Today, the majority of mobile customers are on 3G and 4G networks, only an extremely small percentage of customers remain on 2G-only mobile devices.”

The company said it intends to redeploy the spectrum for use with 3G and 4G services.

Locally, Telstra announced plans to close its 2G network by the end of 2016.

The telco said its 2G network now accounted for less than one percent of its total network traffic, and said it hasn't sold a 2G phone for a number of years.

Telecommunications industry analyst Paul Budde told iTnews it was only a matter of time before Optus follows suit.

“I think with hardly anyone left on 2G, they can start to reuse that network space, and it makes sense to start closing services on the old network,” Budde said.

However, according to Budde, one challenge in closing the network is it is likely that machine-to-machine devices are using the 2G network.

“If anything, there might be some M2M activity already taking place on the 2G network. Those devices will need to be reconfigured, but that might not be a major drama,” Budde said.

“There will also be some telephone users who need to have the move facilitated, but that can easily be done. If they are keen to keep those customers but close the network, they will absorb those costs.”

An Optus spokesperson said while there were no active programs to migrate 2G phone users to more recent devices, the company was “continually reviewing” the network’s future.

“We continually review our 2G strategy as more and more customers shift to 4G, but have made no decisions about 2G network closure,” he said.

Rival telco Vodafone similarly said it had no current plans to close its 2G network.

“While demand for 3G and 4G is increasing, we recognise many customers are satisfied with a basic mobile service," a spokesperson said.

“We’re balancing the need 2G, 3G and 4G services, and allocating available spectrum according to changing customer demand.”

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