The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), which regulates the telco industry in Singapore, has approved the request of the mobile network operators (MNOs) – M1, Singtel Mobile and StarHub Mobile – to close their 2G networks.
This was to “allow more efficient use of the scarce radio frequency spectrum to provide the more advanced 3G and 4G services, which will better meet users’ demand for rich multi-media content”, said IDA in a media release.
“To facilitate this transition, the MNOs have agreed for their 2G subscribers to continue with their existing mobile plans at no additional cost after they have migrated to the more advanced 3G networks, if they choose not to subscribe to new service plans.”
However, subscribers need to check that their current mobile phones can be used for 3G network connections. If not, they would have to change their mobile phones to the ones that can.
Telcos will also make available low cost 3G mobile phone packages to facilitate the change, including conversion of SIM cards to 3G-enabled ones.
Medai reports indicate that telcos are offering affected 2G users 3G handsets from Alcatel, Huawei and Lenovo, among others, for under $100.
However, barriers to use might go beyond price, as familiarity with using newer handsets would figure strongly in switch-overs. Customers might also decide that they do not need complex mobile phones for primarily making simple phone calls.
First introduced in 1994 in Singapore, the 2G networks support voice telephone calls, SMS and basic Internet services.
2G subscriptions have been declining steadily, from over 2 million subscribers in June 2011 to about 250,000 subscribers today, or about 3% of the mobile subscriptions in Singapore, said IDA.
More than half are foreign workers using pre-paid SIM cards. There are also about 20 corporate users — such as transportation companies, retail stores and government agencies — which make use of multiple devices that rely on 2G networks.
“IDA will stop accepting the registration of 2G-only mobile communication equipment from 15 September 2015. Consumers are advised not to purchase 2G-only mobile equipment, as 2G services will not be available from 1 April 2017.”