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2G mobile services to be turned off in 2017

SINGAPORE — In less than two years, all three major telcos here will stop providing 2G mobile services, which are currently used by about 250,000 customers.

SINGAPORE — In less than two years, all three major telcos here will stop providing 2G mobile services, which are currently used by about 250,000 customers. 

This group of users — who are mostly foreign workers using pre-paid subscriptions — have until April 1, 2017, to switch to 3G-enabled mobile phones if they are currently using 2G-only handsets. 

To facilitate the transition, Singtel, StarHub and M1 have agreed to allow these customers to continue on their existing mobile plans at no additional cost after they have migrated to the more advanced networks. 

However, as the telcos have phased out most of their pre-paid plans, the customers may have to subscribe to new plans when they recontract. As 2G plans are usually the cheapest ones, customers may pay more when they switch to new 3G or 4G plans. 

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) said today (June 15) it has approved the telcos’ request to close the network. 

It added that the spectrum currently used for 2G mobile services will make way for 3G and 4G services, which will better meet users’ demand for rich multi-media content, the IDA said. 

It added: “2G is a sunset technology, subscribers are migrating towards more advanced 3G and 4G services.”

From Sept 15, dealers will no longer be able to register 2G-only mobile communication equipment, including mobile phones and point-of-sale terminals. 

IDA figures show a steady decline in 2G subscriptions over the years, from more than 2 million subscribers in June 2011 to about 250,000 today, or 3 per cent of the total subscriptions in Singapore. 

The subscribers include about 20 corporate users — such as transportation companies, retail stores and government agencies — which make use of multiple devices that rely on 2G networks. 

Seven in 10 users still on 2G are customers on pre-paid subscriptions. Of this, the bulk is made up of foreign workers, the IDA said. 

Mobile operators in countries including Japan, Korea, Australia and the United States have also closed or announced plans to cease their 2G networks, the IDA said. 

In a joint statement, the three major telcos said: “Mobile networks have evolved since the launch of the 2G service in 1994, and Singapore’s extensive modern 3G and 4G mobile networks has led to high smartphone ownership and usage rates ... only a small percentage of customers remain on 2G-only mobile devices.” 

The telcos said they will keep affected 2G users informed of the impending network closure through text messages, letters, phone calls and posters at their retail outlets.

Most 2G mobile subscribers TODAY spoke to are willing to upgrade their handsets but said they would need help using the more advanced devices. 

Retiree Annie Ho, 77, said she has no use for Internet on-the-go but will change her mobile phone when the time comes. 

“I will have to learn from my children and grandchildren how to use the new phone,” she said.

Indian national Rajendram Murali, who works at Swissotel’s housekeeping department, said he will learn how to use the phone on YouTube. 

Currently, he spends up to S$40 a month to top up his pre-paid subscription. 

Bangladeshi worker, Mr Manicham, said it would be costly for him to upgrade his handset. 

“My friend gave me this (2G) phone, so it was free,” he said. 

Corporate users said they have gradually been upgrading their 2G-only devices. 

Taxi operator Trans-Cab, for instance, said more than half of the mobile data terminals in their fleet of 4,009 cabs are now 3G-enabled. 

“We started the switch in November last year, after we encountered issues with the 2G network and found it difficult to track where the drivers are. It cost us a lot but the advanced devices are much more accurate now,” said a Trans-Cab spokesperson. 

The company hopes to complete the migration of mobile data terminals by the end of the year. 

It also plans to upgrade its NETS terminals, which run on the 2G network, from next month.

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