The United Arab Emirates (UAE) operators said that their 2G networks will be shut down in phases, with total discontinuation of service expected at the end of 2022
Back in June, the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) announced that the country would shut down 2G services at the end of 2022, ordering the country’s two major mobile operators, Etisalat and du, to make the subsequent arrangements.
2G services were first launched in the UAE back in 1994, meaning the shut down in 2022 will be the end of 28 years of continuous service.
The frequencies currently allocated to 2G services will subsequently be refarmed by the operators, bolstering their spectrum for their more advanced mobile services, such as 5G.
“This step reflects the rapid development of the ICT sector, in which mobile networks play a major role, as the technology lifecycle includes the disappearance of an old technology when a new technology emerges, driving telecom companies to shut down the least effective networks to allow the operation and activation of the most effective ones,” said a TRA in a statement, which also highlighted the importance “a modern and more capable network” to facilitate “comprehensive digital transformation, IoT and smart cities”.
As part of this announcement, the regulator also ordered that 2G-only devices cease to be sold by retailers in June 2022.
Since this announcement, both du and Etisalat have announced that their 2G networks will be gradually turned off in line with the regulator’s timeline, offering support for customers to make the transition to newer mobile technology.
In some sectors, 2G services are still being used for machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, including vehicle-tracking devices, gateways, and Point of Sale devices. In these cases, Etisalat says it is coordinating with businesses to offer upgrades or replacements of these devices to support 4G and IoT services.
When exactly to shut down 2G services is a contentious topic in various markets around the world. In some markets, 2G has been all but eliminated – Japan, for example, has been 2G-free for almost a decade now, with NTT Docomo the last of its major operator trio to cease services in 2012. In fact, in most of Asia, Oceania, and the US, 2G services have already been phased out, with many operators already planning for the sunset of 3G in the next few years.
However, there are other markets where 2G is still pulling its weight, and it is instead 3G that is the more attractive service to discontinue. In Germany, for example, all three of the major mobile operators – Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, and Vodafone – have announced they will shut down 3G services
by the end of this year.
Germany is not alone in this strategy. In fact, Europe is currently awash with differing approaches, with 2G set to outlive 3G in numerous cases. Vodafone, for example, has said that it will phase out its 3G networks in numerous European markets in 2021 and 2022, while plans to switch off 2G will not progress until 2025.
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