Telstra will shut down its 2G network by the end of 2016, with the company putting in place plans to get its customers over onto 3G and 4G over the next two years.
The announcement came in a blog post today by Telstra's group managing director of networks Mike Wright. He said that although the 2G GSM standard changed the way mobile communications developed in the world, bringing on international roaming, texting and mobile internet, the Telstra 2G network has been in place for more than 20 years, and newer technologies such as 3G and 4G have been rolled out.
"Ever since we launched our world leading NextG network in 2006 we have seen customers progressively move off the 2G network," he said.
No 2G phone has been sold by Telstra in a number of years.
"We have seen steep declines in the number of customers on 2G to the point where today 2G traffic accounts for less than 1 per cent of our total network traffic [and] we have not sold a 2G phone for several years," Wright said.
The company will be working over the next 2 and a half years to move the straggling 2G customers over onto 3G and 4G, he said, which will require a new SIM card.
"Shortly we will start to contact customers who may be affected by the 2G closure to explain the changes and to provide them with their options. For Telstra Retail customers this may be simple, as many already have 3G phones but have not upgraded their SIM card," he said.
"For others, they may need to change to a compatible 3G/4G handset."
Telstra's 2G network is still in use by wholesale customers, particularly those who operate global SIM networks where data is a low priority. Wright said that Telstra's wholesale customers would also be moved.
"For our wholesale customers, we will be in contact soon to discuss what this change means for you and how we will work with you to support transition from our 2G network."
Once the migration is completed, it is expected Telstra will refarm the 2G spectrum for use with 4G technology. Telstra has already been testing out LTE-Advanced technology combining the 1800MHz 4G spectrum band and using the 2G 900MHz spectrum band for 4G.
A spokesperson for Telstra said the company was exploring its options, and needed to wait the outcome of the Australian Communications and Media Authority's planned restack of the 900MHz spectrum band.
"Telstra is already re-using a portion of our 900MHz spectrum holding for 4G services at selected sites and we are able to comfortably maintain the declining 2G call traffic at those sites on the remaining 900MHz bandwidth not used by 4G," the spokesperson said.
"Telstra is considering several options for the wider use of the 900MHz band up to and beyond the final closure of our 2G service. A clearer position on our future use of this spectrum will be possible once we understand how the ACMA plans to re-configure the 900MHz band."