Telcos to scrap 2G services by 2017

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

Some 250,000 2G users - or 3 per cent of the eight million mobile subscribers here - will be affected but they have the next two years to make the switch to newer 3G and 4G handsets, said the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) yesterday.

Singapore will join South Korea and Japan, which 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.

IDA approved the proposal submitted last year by the three local telcos, Singtel, StarHub and M1, to end their 2G services.

The authority said it took into consideration "the evolving technology landscape" and consumers' rising demand for faster 3G and 4G services.

The retirement of the older 2G networks will allow for "more efficient use of the scarce radio frequency" for 3G and 4G services, it said.

IDA expects the number of 2G users, which has been falling steadily over the past five years, to taper off in the next two years. At present, more than half of them are foreign workers using pre-paid SIM cards.

Affected 2G customers need to switch to newer 3G or 4G handsets - if they are not already using one - only from April 2017. They can choose to stay on their current mobile plans.

Affected users are also advised to check with their telcos if they need to change their SIM cards.

The telcos are also offering affected 2G users 3G handsets from Alcatel, Huawei and Lenovo, among others, for under $100.

Senior analyst Clement Teo of United States-based market research firm Forrester said it is a matter of time that Singapore retires its 2G networks.

"With limited spectrum, networks must modernise to cater for ever-rising demand for high-speed mobile data," said Mr Teo.

But retiree James Mok, 63, said he does not want to change out of his Sony Ericsson K550.

"It is troublesome... I only need to make calls. I also don't know how to use touchscreen phones."

Additional reporting by Lester Hio

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