With Mobile World Congress right around the corner, with the focus and hype on LTE, it’s important to put that all in perspective and remember that 2G is still around. Yes, that 2G. In fact, according to both Infonetics and Wireless Intelligence, 2G subscribers are still growing and will peak in 2015! Amazing when you think about it since we hardly ever hear about 2G anymore.
Why is 2G still growing? First of all, the networks are installed and they’re still working, so if you are a carrier and have made the investment, you might as well use them right? Second, spectrum is limited and is allocated for 2G or is paid for. Third, 2G works perfectly fine for voice. So while all the rage is about smartphones, there are still a lot of people on basic feature phones, because that’s what they can afford or because the usage suits them or because they just haven’t gotten around to upgrading to a smartphone. And let’s face it, sometimes there are even people who still use their smartphones just to talk. So for talking and texting, 2G is perfectly good for that. In fact, since 3G and 4G are being utilized for data and video, there are many 2G / 3G hybrid networks out there, with the voice being funneled over to 2G. Think about all the LTE rollouts happening, for data and video basically, when VoLTE is still just nascent. All that LTE is for data. Voice calls still need to happen. So use the existing 2G networks for voice, especially as I said, the networks are out there and still working.
After 2015 the 2G subscribers are expected to start a long decline. Because even though the networks are installed and working, the 2G networks do take maintenance, and the carriers will want to start taking them offline and/or redeploy the spectrum. This will be a long process. All in all, let’s not forget the role of 2G networks for the next many years.