It was “only” 28 years ago when the GSM standards and 2G phones were deployed. The rise of the internet brought us cellular networks just a few years later. By 2018, many carriers have already shut down their 2G networks and many more are going to do it soon. The same might happen for 3G soon. Why and where is this happening?
AT&T, the American telecom giant, said in 2012 that they’re planning to turn off their 2G network in order to move customers onto more efficient services and spectrums and to reuse the 2G spectrum for LTE instead. A few weeks after the initial January 1, 2017 date, all AT&T 2G networks were shut off. Now many other telecoms are following in their footsteps by closing down their own 2G networks.
However, some carriers think that closing down 2G is not the best idea and instead believe shutting down 3G is more functional (while keeping 2G & 4G). Telenor Norway’s CTO said: “It’s better to retain 2G than 3G because all the devices today are still embedded with 2G, so you will lose out without the network, 2G is still important for the M2M market.” The CTO of T-Mobile Czech Republic said in 2015 that they want to decommission 3G in five years, meaning by 2020. There haven't been any updates from them since.
If you’re an IoT device maker, use 2G or 3G modules in the devices and sell globally, pay attention to this short list of countries that do not, or will not, support 2G or 3G for too long:
Australia: 2G no longer supported by 30.04.2018
Japan: 2G no longer supported since 01.03.2011
Singapore: 2G no longer supported since 01.04.2017
Taiwan: 2G no longer supported since 01.07.2017, 3G no longer supported by 31.12.2018
USA: 2G GSM no longer supported by 31.12.2020, CDMA not disclosed
However, there are some carriers that are not planning to switch off their 2G in upcoming years. The CEO of Vodafone Erik Brenneis announced that their 2G will be supported at least until 2025 in Europe. The reason being that many legacy M2M and IoT connections still run on 2G.
While moving away from 2G is painful for many IoT and M2M companies, it is a necessary measure in order to get more stable and better networks in return. 3G and 4G coverage is growing fast, LTE-M and NB-IoT networks are steadily rolling out and many module makers already support them. 1oT suggests to use at least 3G, but ideally 4G, LTE-M, or NB-IoT modems to make sure that the rug doesn't get pulled from under your feet.
Here's the full list carriers, that have publicly announced that they will cut their 2G (or 3G) network support (as of 23.03.2018):
AT&T 2G shutdown date: 01.01.2017
Verizon 2G CDMA 1X shutdown date: 31.12.2019,
T-Mobile 2G shutdown date: 31.12.2020
Out of the “big four” in the USA, Sprint is the only one that hasn’t announced a 2G shutdown.
Telstra 2G shutdown date: 01.12.2016
Optus 2G shutdown date: 01.08.2017
Vodafone 2G shutdown date: 30.04.2018
Telus 2G CDMA shutdown date: 31.05.2017
Bell 2G CDMA shutdown date: 31.01.2017-01.06.2018 (depending on the region)
Canada’s biggest carrier Rogers has not disclosed anything regarding shutting down 2G.
Rcom 2G and 3G shutdown date: 30.11.2017
KDDI 2G (TU-KA service) shutdown date: 31.03.2008
Softbank 2G shutdown date: 31.03.2010
NTT DOCOMO 2G shutdown date: 01.03.2011
T-Mobile 2G shutdown date 31.12.2020
As there are seven carriers in the Netherlands. Using 2G modems there is still fairly safe.
Spark 2G CDMA shutdown date: 31.07.2012
2degrees 2G shutdown date: 15.03.2018
Vodafone is now the only carrier in New Zealand that offers 2G networks.
Telenor 2G shutdown date 31.12.2025, 3G shutdown 2020
There are two more carriers in Norway that have not disclosed shutting down 2G networks.
M1 2G shutdown date: 01.04.2017
Singatel 2G shutdown date: 01.04.2017
StarHub 2G shutdown date: 01.04.2017
KT 2G CDMA shutdown date: 19.03.2012
SK telecom offers 2G/3G over LTE network.
Swisscom 2G shutdown date 31.12.2020
Sunrise 2G shutdown date 31.12.2018
Salt Mobile (formerly Orange) has not disclosed shutting 2G date.
If they do, Switzerland would be the first country in Europe to shut down 2G.
Chunghwa 2G shutdown date: 01.07.2017, 3G shutdown date 31.12.2018
Taiwan Telecom 2G shutdown date: 01.07.2017, 3G shutdown date 31.12.2018
FET 2G shutdown date: 01.07.2017, 3G shutdown date 31.12.2018
From 2019, Taiwan will only operate on LTE.
True Move 2G shutdown date 01.01.2016
Advanced Info Service 2G shutdown date 01.01.2016
DTAC, the second biggest carrier in Thailand still offers 2G networks.
It's to be expected that one day 2G will only be a thing of the past, but for now, at least in Europe, most M2M devices are still using 2G connectivity (due to low cost 2G modems & devices) and the market demand is strong. If you do business in this region, you don't have to frantically swap out all your devices quite yet.