“It’s time to say goodbye, old friend.” Telstra has made clear its intention to phase out its 2G network by the end of 2016, freeing up that portion of spectrum for extra 4G bandwidth.
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Australia's largest telco's 2G GSM network has been in service for over two decades now, and in a sense it has been outdated since the 2006 launch of NextG (3G). Telstra says it hasn't sold a 2G-only phone in several years, and that at the moment 2G usage only accounts for 1 per cent of total network traffic.
In a blog post, Telstra networks group managing director Mike Wright said that the 2G network pioneered in Europe and brought to Australia by Telstra "changed the world". It served its purpose for a long time, and continues to serve some customers, but Telstra will work with those users to transition them to 3G or 4G services that have better coverage, faster speeds and more long-term potential.
"At the time, just making a phone call on the move was a novelty", but those times have changed and that portion of 900MHz network spectrum used by 2G can be put to better use today for LTE-Advanced carrier aggregation, binding that spectrum with existing 1800MHz 4G spectrum to enable faster download and upload speeds -- its Wi-Fi 4G Advanced hotspot already supports this technology. Telstra is also working on rolling out 700MHz 4G, which will also be used for LTE-A and other 4G services.
Currently, it's not impossible for a phone to failover to 2G GPRS or EDGE data communications if a 3G cell is too packed; personally, it's happened to me every now and then on a busy train into the office. Hopefully refarming that spectrum for extra 4G capacity not only means the LTE network will be faster under ideal conditions, it will also be able to handle more users at once, benefiting both 3G and 4G users simultaneously by distributing load.