Australian telcos keep 2G for now

Telstra promises “smooth transition” if it does end 2G.

Australian wireless operators said they have no near-term plans to end 2G service as AT&T has announced in the US. However, Telstra said there would be a “smooth transition” if does decide to end 2G.

The US giant AT&T announced recently that it was hoping to convert remaining 2G customers to 3G phones and above by 2017. Australian wireless carriers told Computerworld Australia that they’re not yet ready to make the same call.

“No final decision has been made to close the [2G] network,” a Telstra spokeswoman said. “In the event Telstra will decide to close the [2G] network, it will work closely with its customers to ensure there is a smooth transition to the Next G network.”

An Optus spokesman said 2G would remain a part of the carrier’s network. The carrier has converted a portion of its 900 MHz 2G spectrum to 3G through the process known as spectrum refarming.

At Vodafone, “our 2G capabilities remain an important part of our overall network strategy and it will continue to perform an important role for the foreseeable future,” a spokesman said.

However, analysts have predicted the demise of 2G services within a decade.

AT&T attributed its decision to kill 2G to increasing demands on its network and the movement to higher speed services, in a filing at the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Also as part of our ongoing efforts to improve our network performance and help address the need for additional spectrum capacity, we intend to redeploy spectrum currently used for basic 2G services to support more advanced mobile Internet services on our 3G and 4G networks,” AT&T said in the filing.

“We expect to fully discontinue service on our 2G networks by approximately January 1, 2017.”

AT&T estimated that as of June 30, about 12 per cent of its postpaid customers were using 2G handsets.

The first 2G services in the world went live in 1991, while commercial 3G services began to appear in 2001.

All three Australian carriers are investing billions of dollars in 4G wireless using LTE technology. Telstra recently announced the shutdown of an older 3G network called 3GIS that was created in a joint venture with Hutchison in 2004.

The chairman of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), Warwick Bray, recently cited spiking data traffic on Australian networks as reason to deploy more wireless spectrum and improve network efficiency. Bray is also an executive at Telstra.

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