COVID-19 has driven the demand for digital technology by consumers and industries, and has made high-speed Internet access more important than ever before. In order to ensure that users can obtain stable and high-speed network access services, operators in various countries have invested heavily in building 5g, expanding 4G coverage, and trying to provide as much wireless spectrum as possible for 4G / 5G networks. However, by the end of February 2021, only about 40 regional markets in the world have issued 5g new frequency bands. At present, operators in other places can only use the existing old frequency bands. In this case, operators have to consider closing the old network and transferring the frequency band to the new network.
According to the data provided by GSMA, from modern times to 2025, more than 55 2G / 3G networks are expected to be shut down in the world, and spectrum and site resources will be used for new 4G and 5g networks, and operators will benefit a lot from this action.
One is to improve mobile broadband coverage. The 2G / 3G networks deployed by operators in various countries are mostly based on 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100mhz and other medium and low frequency bands. The electromagnetic wave coverage in this band is wide and the capacity is moderate. Therefore, after 2G / 3G is withdrawn from the network, operators can use these bands to deploy 5g and expand 4G to provide better service experience for users.
Second, improve cost-effectiveness. After long-term use, 2G / 3G network is aging, which takes up a lot of capital expenditure and operating expenditure of operators, and the ARPU value of these expenditures is not relatively low. If 2G / 3G is shut down and more funds and resources are used for 4G volte and other digital technologies, operators can get better cost-effectiveness.
Third, promote the rapid development of industrial chain. Over the years, the relationship between operators and the communication industry chain has been mutual promotion and win-win. Operators provide a broad market space for communication manufacturers, and communication manufacturers provide operators with solutions to upgrade the network and improve services. Only when the operators determine the network upgrade strategy and roadmap in advance, can the communication industry chain develop targeted solutions in time to help operators achieve the predetermined goals.
GSMA research found that there are many differences in 2G / 3G off network strategies among operators in different regions of the world.
European operators are closing 3G faster than 2G. According to statistics, 19 operators in 14 European countries plan to close 3G before 2025, while only 8 operators in 8 countries plan to close 2G at the same time. Net1 completely shut down 3G networks in Denmark and Sweden in 2015, Vodafone shut down its 3G networks in 2020, and Telenor and Switzerland Telecom will shut down 3G networks in 2021. The reason is that although 2G is older than 3G, the wide coverage of 2G network can well support narrowband Internet of things services, and 3G is not as good as 2G in this point.
At present, no operators in America have shut down 3G networks. They prefer to shut down 2G to get more frequency bands and deploy 5g. American operators are very active in investing in next generation mobile technology. At present, 13 operators in five countries have launched 5g services, and they need more frequency bands to improve 5g coverage. GSMA predicts that by the end of 2025, 15 operators in seven countries in the Americas will shut down 2G networks and reuse 2G spectrum for 4G and 5g network services.
Asia is also retaining 3G, closing 2G, and continuing to expand 4G investment. Only Taiwan, China, is simultaneously reducing 2G and 3G networks. It is estimated that by the end of 2025, 29 operators in Asia will shut down 2G and 16 operators will shut down 3G.
Affected by the current situation of economic development, Africa is more inclined to continue to use 2G and 3G networks. In Africa, the scale of 2G market is twice that of 3G market, and smart phones are not popular enough. Low cost function phones are popular among local users, accounting for 42%. Therefore, in the short term, African operators do not have enough incentive to replace 2G / 3G networks. However, with the development of user scale and business needs, operators have to consider the network upgrade planning sooner or later.
Oceanian countries are expected to shut down 2G networks in the near future, while 3G networks will continue for some time. Australia and New Zealand launched 2G service in 1993 and 3G service in 2004. Oceania is more active in deploying 5g. At present, four countries have provided 5g commercial services, and other countries are also conducting corresponding tests. At the present stage, 2G network only accounts for 5% of the total number of connections in Oceania, and its traffic is also very small. As early as 2018, some operators in Australia announced to shut down 2G network. Although no operator has officially released 2G network withdrawal plan, GSMA predicts that the local 2G network will be shut down faster than 3G network.
It is an effective development strategy to shut down the old network and use resources for new network construction, but GSMA thinks that there is no fixed paradigm in specific actions. For example, European countries are focusing on shutting down 3G, while other regions are more inclined to shut down the older 2G. Different countries and regions have different needs and use experience of mobile communication technology, so there will be different decisions on network upgrading. GSMA suggests that operators publish the network evolution roadmap as soon as possible, so that communication manufacturers have enough time to develop corresponding products and solutions, so that operators can promote network upgrading faster and more cost-effective.
In the long run, however, the old 3G and 4G technologies will be eliminated, but in the long run, the speed of development will be different.