Singapore pulls plug on 2G mobile networks, to reuse airwaves for newer 4G services

From April 2017, all 2G voice and messaging services will end in Singapore as the airwave-starved island moves to reuse existing 2G airwaves to boost the capacity and speeds of newer 4G services. -- PHOTO: BUSINESS TIMES
From April 2017, all 2G voice and messaging services will end in Singapore as the airwave-starved island moves to reuse existing 2G airwaves to boost the capacity and speeds of newer 4G services. -- PHOTO: BUSINESS TIMES

SINGAPORE - From April 2017, all 2G voice and messaging services will end in Singapore as the airwave-starved island moves to reuse existing 2G airwaves to boost the capacity and speeds of newer 4G services.

The three local telcos Singtel, StarHub and M1 said in a statement on Monday afternoon that the number of customers affected are an "extremely small percentage" of their current base.

"Mobile networks have evolved since the launch of 2G services in 1994... Singapore's extensive modern 3G and 4G mobile networks have led to high smartphone ownership and usage," the telcos said.

"To cater for consumers' increased demand for mobile data and faster access speeds, the spectrum currently used for 2G will be used to provide faster, more advanced 3G and 4G services."

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore said there are some 250,000 2G mobile users today, forming only 3 per cent of the total mobile user base of 8 million subscriptions. The authority expects the proportion of 2G users to taper off in the next two years.

Customers on 2G-only handsets will only need to place their existing SIM cards into a 3G or 4G handset. Their mobile services will not be disrupted. Those currently using 3G and 4G handsets will also not be affected.

In the last few years, the three telcos said they have been conducting outreach programmes to encourage customers to migrate to newer networks. They have pledged to continue reaching out to affected 2G users through SMS, calls and posters at their retail outlets in the run-up to the service cessation.

Singapore is not the first country to end 2G services. Korea and Japan ceased offering 2G services in March 2012. Australia is expected to pull the plug on its 2G networks, starting with Telstra, by the end of next year.