Telkom is committed to switch off its legacy 2G network in South Africa within the next 12 to 18 months and will likely become the first mobile operator in the country to do so.
The company wants to switch off the 2G network “as soon as possible” so that the spectrum can be redeployed for mobile broadband.
“In the near future, we will switch off 2G — probably within 12 months,” Beauty Apleni, chief technology and information officer for Telkom’s consumer and small business segment, said in an interview with TechCentral.
The company’s focus is on 4G/LTE, Apleni said. The company has no more than a couple of hundred thousand users on 2G-only devices — mainly people who bought 2G handsets through other networks and then inserted a Telkom Sim card in their phones. At the March 2019 year-end, Telkom had 9.7 million mobile subscribers.
“None of our retail channels sells feature phones,” she said. “Our customers get 4G phones. We are driving a 4G-specific network.”
The number of people still using 2G-only handsets is a tiny fraction of its total mobile base, meaning it will be easier for Telkom than its rivals to switch off the 2G signal.
“In terms of advancing and ensuring we are solidly in the 4G space, we don’t want to be carrying that (2G) base for a long time,” Apleni said.
In an interview with TechCentral in November, Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko said: “We are not taking any more 2G customers. If we can get them to roam on the Vodacom network, that would be a fantastic opportunity, because then I can switch it off even earlier.”
Telkom began roaming on Vodacom’s 2G, 3G and 4G infrastructure at the beginning of July, after a longstanding roaming deal with MTN for 2G and 3G was allowed to expire.
Maseko said Telkom’s 2G customers were “by far” the lowest Arpu generators for the company. Arpu is average revenue per user and is a key telecommunications industry performance metric.
Apleni said Telkom is also keen to launch a next-generation 5G network, but said the company is unlikely to do so until after a spectrum auction likely to take place later this year.