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Mobile providers will switch off 2G and 3G networks by 2020 - analyst

Tuesday, April 28th 2015 by Dean Reilly

Current 2G and 3G networks will be a thing of the past in five years' time, research has suggested.

According to leading global technology research and advisory firm Ovum, mobile providers will be ready to move on from 2G and 3G networks by around 2020, with the latter being switched off first.

However, determining the “sweet spot” to close down these legacy networks is challenging, according to Ovum principal analyst Nicole McCormick.

She said: “The majority of operators are not in a position today to close their legacy networks, nor will they be in the next 1–2 years.”

The terms 2G, 3G and 4G refer to the second, third and fourth generations of mobile technology. Early trials of 5G are already underway by some mobile networks.

The report highlighted that the revenue mobile providers generate from 2G and 3G, including voice calls and roaming, would be considered when determining the right time to switch off the networks.

‘Retired en masse’

Operators in the US and Asia have already started to announce intended network closures, but Ovum found that these are currently the exception.

“We don’t expect networks to be retired en masse until closer to 2020,” Ms McCormick added.

Explaining why 3G may be switched off before the older second generation of mobile, the Brisbane-based analyst said: “2G is still an important source of revenue.

"LTE (Long-Term Evolution or 4G) provides a better mobile broadband experience than 3G, and with VoLTE (Voice over Long-Term Evolution), LTE can handle the voice responsibilities of 3G.

“This points to the possibility that operators opt to close their 3G networks before they close 2G.”

Cable.co.uk previously reported that, in a move that could signal the move from 2G and 3G to 4G-only networks, both Three and Vodafone were introducing VoLTE technology to enable customers to make calls using fourth generation mobile technology.

Before the introduction of VoLTE, mobile calls were exclusively carried on 2G networks, with data being sent and received using either 3G or 4G.

Founded in 1985, Ovum now has more than 180 experts worldwide specializing in IT, telecoms and media industry analysis.

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