It is inevitable that when one technology prevails over another, the first one ends up disappearing. In mobile telephony, we currently live a transition period. 4G networks are the most common, although still 3G networks survive and, little by little, the next generation, 5G, is being implemented. So what happens to previous technologies? The shutdown of 2G networks It is inevitable and it is something that has been happening for a long time. But the 3G shutdown is also underway, some distance away.
If in the field of wired internet, fiber optics is gaining ground over the copper pair, in mobile telephony, two needs come together. The shutdown of the 2G and 3G networks responds to the reduced maintenance costs in practically unused networks. And on the other hand, the need to take advantage of the radio spectrum that will leave the 2G and 3G networks after their disappearance.
The progressive implementation of the 5G network in Spain it requires turning the page of the 2G and 3G networks. Currently, 2G and 3G networks coexist in the 900 MHz band. And in rural areas, they are joined by 4G. In the future, it should stay free for 5G. For its part, the 800 MHz band is dedicated to 4G. And the 700 MHz band corresponds to 5G. And in later bands there are cases of coexistence such as the 1.8 GHz and 2.1 GHz bands. In the first, 2G, 4G and 5G coexist. In the second, 3G, 4G and 5G. The abandonment of 2G and 3G will leave all free frequency for 5G.
But leaving aside bandwidths, frequencies and generations of mobile telephony, the question for the user is, how does the mobile telephony customers affect us? progressive off of 2G and 3G?
In the summer of 2021, the Spanish Government auctioned the 700 MHz band. Radioelectric spectrum It is publicly owned but telecommunications companies can exploit it for services such as telephony, television or internet access. As usual, the distribution was between the three large Spanish groups with their own infrastructure: Movistar, Vodafone Y Orange. And during 2022, auctions will be held for the 26 GHz band. To these two bands must be added the 3.5 Ghz band, which in successive auctions has gone to Vodafone mostly but also MoreMobile, Telefonica Y Orange.
But for a technology as ambitious as 5G, it is necessary to free up the bands currently occupied by 2G and 3G. And that, in reality, they are falling more and more into disuse. Especially 2G, which we all remember for the acronym GPRS. And at a certain distance, 3G, still in use in certain areas that 4G does not reach or that is even used in areas with 4G to voice calls, leaving 4G for high-speed data transport.
Asian countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Singapore or South Korea have already shut down their 2G networks. In Australia it occurred in 2018. And in Mexico, Movistar turned off its 2G network in 2021. In Europe, the situation varies depending on the country. The first to abandon 2G and 3G by some operators have been Switzerland, Sweden and Norway. The UK, for example, relies on 2G for payment terminals. And the cars approved in Europe that allow automatic communication are emergency services, they use the 2G and 3G bands. This should be changing. Returning to the United Kingdom, at the end of 2018, 85% of mobile traffic already used exclusively 4G networks.
At the end of 2016, the plans of the Spanish and European suppliers of telecommunications was to end the shutdown of 3G in 2025 and 2G in 2030. First, 3G because it can be replaced by 4G networks, both in mobile data and in calls, through the VoLTE implementation or 4G calls, available in Spain since 2015.
However, 2G technology is more difficult to replace. especially in devices using M2M connections (machine to machine) through the gsm network, which we know as 2G. Unfortunately it is very widespread. in the industrial field, so its jump to later technologies such as 5G implies a considerable financial outlay.
In the first months of 2021, the plans remain the same. Movistar, for example, plans to replace its copper pair network with 100% fiber optics by 2025. The year in which it will also execute the shutting down your 3G network. Instead, Vodafone intends to shut down its 3G network in 2023 ahead of the competition. For the rest, Orange’s plans are focused on abandoning 2G in 2025 but without a fixed date for 3G.
In practice, if we cast a look at maps like the ones offered nPerf we will get an idea of the mobile network infrastructure of the main spanish suppliers. 4G networks are the most widespread along with the increasingly frequent 5G. 3G networks remain in less populated areas. For its part, 2G is limited to very specific areas, which, as we saw before, correspond to industrial companies.
Although there is room, 2025 is just around the corner. In that time, certain changes in habits must occur so that the shutdown of 2G and 3G does not affect us. First of all, if you use your smartphone to connect to the internet, the shutdown does not affect you, since for this task we use 4G and 5G networks.
A separate case are voice calls. Although calling over the internet through applications such as WhatsApp is becoming more frequent, or making video calls, the voice call is still there. Especially because the most providers They offer virtually unlimited calling at a low price. But as we saw before, the voice call usually uses the 3G network instead of the 4G. To do the latter, the telephone companies will have to activate by default the use of VoLTE or 4G calls.
The main affected by the shutdown of 3G are the plain phones, those of small size or with large keys for the elderly. These telephones, which are only used for calls and SMS messages, they have 2G and 3G before, so when the total shutdown occurs they will stop working. It is expected that these types of devices, which have a target audience, will adapt to 4G sooner rather than later.
Otherwise, the rest of mobile devices for the general public that currently use mobile connectivity are compatible with 4G and/or 5G to a lesser extent. We talk about bracelets, watches, wearables in general and other devices. Moreover, many of them offer connectivity such as Bluetooth or WiFi, so they should not be affected.