Minister sets new dates for 2G, 3G shutdown in South Africa


Government has set a new date for 2G and 3G mobile networks in South Africa to be shut down in South Africa.

According to a new policy document published on the eve of the general election, government wants these “legacy” networks shut down by no later than 31 December 2027 — or three-and-a-half years from now.

The “preliminary” deadline is contained in the policy document on next-generation radio frequency spectrum for economic development, which was published in the Government Gazette on Tuesday, a day ahead of the polls.

According to the new plan (and its preliminary deadlines):

  • Communications regulator Icasa must stop approving 2G- and 3G-only devices (mainly cellphones) by no later than 30 September 2024.
  • Network operators, in turn, must stop activating 2G- and 3G- only devices by 31 December 2024, meaning that from January 2025, no devices that are not capable of at least connecting to a 4G/LTE network may be added to their networks.
  • Network operators must then commence with a shutdown of their legacy 2G and 3G infrastructure from 1 June 2025.
  • A total shutdown of 2G and 3G networks must be completed by no later than 31 December 2027.

A previous draft spectrum policy document had proposed that no new devices be licensed from mid-2023, and that a total shutdown of 2G networks would have occurred by March 2024. Those deadlines, which were not met, were criticised by mobile operators, which described them as being far too aggressive.

“To fully benefit from rapid technological advancements, this policy recognises the maturity and ageing of technology. It advocates for the creation and adoption of a technology retirement road map,” the new policy document reads.

“This road map aims to ensure that high-demand spectrum (spectrum where demand for its use exceeds available supply) can be used to deploy newer technologies, especially in rural, remote and underserved areas of the country,” it says.

“The road map should plan and propose the gradual phasing out and shutting down of older-generation networks, such as 2G and 3G, in a coordinated and less disruptive manner.”

But writing for TechCentral last week, Nomvuyiso Batyi, CEO of the Association of Comms & Technology — ACT represents the country’s main telecoms operators — argued that the transition away from 2G and 3G should not be forced on the industry by government.

“ACT is arguing for the state to take a more supportive and enabling role to allow for an industry-led transition rather than the state-directed process followed now in which the government has set deadlines to which the industry is expected to adhere,” Batyi wrote.

‘Standing aside’

“This approach – which is contrary to the successful transitions seen in other markets – is not enabling as it does not accommodate the realities of the consumer market, and the risks to existing communities and businesses who still rely on the older technologies and who need time and assistance to prepare for the transition.

“Besides standing aside to allow an industry-led process, the government could implement other enabling actions such as reducing ‘luxury’ import taxes for next-generation technology-enabled handsets to encourage consumer uptake,” she wrote.

The new spectrum policy document notes that network and spectrum licences granted to major telecommunications operators in South Africa will begin expiring from 2028. The spectrum will be returned to Icasa for renewal or for a renegotiation of licensing terms and conditions.


The new policy document also calls for the development of a “spectrum outlook” for South Africa, which must be reviewed and updated every five years.

Nomvuyiso Batyi

“The spectrum outlook will provide the country with an overview of market trends that affect spectrum use. It will also inform the government about the allocation of spectrum and advise the authority (Icasa) on controlling, planning and licensing of spectrum.”


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