South Africa’s communications regulator proposed sunsetting 2G and 3G in the country by March 2025 to free up frequencies for next-generation 5G services.

In a draft policy document from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), Communications Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni outlined a plan to prohibit licensing of 2G devices by 30 June 2023. It would then complete a shutdown of compatible networks by 30 June 2024.

For 3G, it proposes ending device licensing by 31 March 2024 and a shutdown a year later.

Ntshavheni said ICASA planned to conduct the shutdown in stages, ensuring it causes minimal disruption to services. The timeline is not set, and will be continuously reviewed.

The main aim of the move is to shutdown “inefficient” and old generation networks, with the view of using spectrum to push 5G in the country.

It is, however likely the regulator could face opposition from the country’s major operators, with Vodacom stating in the past it would find it difficult to completely close its 2G network.

MTN and Cell C are also likely to face issues due to their reliance on legacy networks.

South Africa’s proposal comes around six months after the country held a spectrum auction, raising almost $1 billion, with frequencies intended to be used to boost 4G and 5G coverage.