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​Optus to switch off 2G next month

Optus has announced that it will cease offering its 2G service from August 1, 2017, as a result of increased 4G uptake by customers.

Optus will be officially shuttering its 2G GSM network on August 1, 2017, cutting off Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania to mark the final stage in the telco's exit from the service.

As 2G capabilities become eclipsed by 3G and 4G, Optus managing director of Networks Dennis Wong said the closure will allow Optus to review options to reallocate some of the spectrum to improve its customer experience as well as its mobile services.

"There is no doubt that the 2G network, which was first established in 1993, played an important role in our network, particularly when we were first establishing ourselves across Australia," Wong said on Tuesday.

"Nearly 25 years on, and our customer levels using the 2G mobile network have significantly decreased as greater smartphone usage and advances in 4G technologies drive customer preferences for mobile data and faster speeds. This was the right time for us to close the 2G network."

The shutdown will also affect Virgin Mobile and Optus wholesale providers currently piggybacking off Optus' 2G network.

When the company first announced it was ceasing to offer the service back in August 2015, Wong said Optus' 2G offering made up only a fraction of its total mobile network traffic, and that it was declining significantly year on year.

Shuttering 2G will allow Optus to investigate emerging technologies such as 5G, Wong added.

Vodafone Australia has pencilled in September 30, 2017, for the closure of its 2G GSM network, revealing last year its 2G network carried less than 1 percent of its total data traffic and 2 percent of its voice traffic, in comparison to its 4G network which was already carrying almost 80 percent of data.

The freed-up spectrum from shutting down the 2G network will be repurposed to augment and extend its 4G network and roll out new services, Vodafone said previously.

Vodafone's announcement to shutter the service came nearly two years after Telstra's, with the incumbent telco switching off its 2G network last year.

Singtel, Optus' parent company, began shutting down its 2G service in April following a direction from Singapore's Infocomm Media Development Authority that affected 123,000 2G subscribers in the country.

Competitors M1 and StarHub also began closing their 2G networks under the government-backed direction.