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Vodafone Australia shutting down 2G network in 2017

Following Telstra by two years and Optus by one year, Vodafone has finally announced the closure of its 2G network in September next year.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Vodafone Australia has finally announced the shuttering of its 2G GSM network, with the service to be switched off on September 30, 2017.

According to Vodafone, its 2G network carries less than 1 percent of its total data traffic and 2 percent of its voice traffic, while its 4G network already carries 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.

"We are continuing to enhance our network with features including voice over 4G, which provides clearer voice calls, shorter call connection times, and the ability to use 4G data while making or receiving a call," said Vodafone acting CTO Kevin Millroy.

"With the Internet of Things (IoT) on our doorstep, it is paramount we manage spectrum efficiently and reallocate capacity to our more advanced networks to help more of our customers have a better experience."

Vodafone said it will begin transitioning 2G customers onto its 3G and 4G networks over the year, including upgrading handsets to be compatible with the newer networks.

"We want to be totally upfront and transparent with our customers by giving them advance notice of the closure of our 2G network late next year," Millroy said.

"We will work closely with our 2G customers to ensure this transition is as simple as possible.

"By taking a step up to a new 4G or 3G phone, customers can enjoy better coverage and call quality, and can also take advantage of capabilities such as video calling, mobile email, and social media on some devices."

The shutdown will also affect wholesale providers currently piggybacking off Vodafone's 2G network.

Vodafone's 4G network covers 95.3 percent of the Australian population, or almost 23 million people -- a 40 percent rise in its network size over the past four years. The telco in May announced that it will spend AU$9 million on constructing 32 new mobile base stations in regional areas.

It is also continuing to expand its 4G network by purchasing AU$68 million worth of 1800MHz spectrum earlier this year; refarming its 850MHz spectrum band to bring coverage to regional and metropolitan Queensland, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory; and proposing to the Australian government that it be permitted to pay AU$594.3 million for 2x 10MHz in the 700MHz spectrum band that was unsold in the 2013 auction.

Vodafone's decision to shutter 2G services comes more than a year after Optus' decision, and over two years since Telstra's announcement on shutting down its own 2G network.

Optus' 2G services will cease to operate at the beginning of April 2017, while Telstra's will close at the end of this year.

"We have seen steep declines in the number of customers on 2G to the point where today, 2G traffic accounts for less than 1 percent of our total network traffic [and] we have not sold a 2G phone for several years," Telstra's group managing director of networks Mike Wright said in July 2014.

Singtel, along with fellow Singapore telcos StarHub and M1, announced last June that they would also cease offering 2G services by April 2017.

The steady transition from 2G to 4G is helped along by declining demand for voice and text services, and increasing popularity of communications apps including Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, which use data.

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