Wednesday, 05 August 2015 12:23

Optus GSM switch off April 2017: Gosh, Sad Moment Featured


It’s a Genuinely Sad Moment for the GSM network in Australia, as Telstra ends it support by end 2016 and Optus does the same from April 2017.

If you’ve got equipment that uses the GSM network to either make calls, or send and receive data to and from devices such as electronic signs, tracking devices or other connected equipment, the day is coming when you’ll have to upgrade that equipment.

Naturally, that upgrade will have to be to a 3G or 4G capable device, because once the GSM network is switched off, those older 2G GSM devices will be electronic relics.

Sure, you will be the person responsible for paying those upgrade fees, but that’s how things usually go in the world of technology.

Now, it’s important to note that Telstra and Optus aren’t switching off their respective GSM networks immediately.

No, Telstra will wait until the end of 2016 first, which means just under a year and a half of Telstra GSM connectivity to go.

Optus will switch off its GSM network in April 2017, so that’s even longer to go still.

And Vodafone hasn’t made any announcements yet, but perhaps it will do so soon now that both Telstra and Optus have made their respective moves.

The moves from Telstra and Optus are in start contrast to expectations that most 2G networks in the region will stay on until 2020, as reported previously at iTWire.

In addition, these switch offs come at a time when Nokia expects 100% GSM data growth in the region, although with both Telstra and Optus reporting very low usage of the GSM network, 100% growth of a tiny amount clearly doesn’t amount to much in the grand scheme of things.

Naturally, Optus says one of the reasons for the switch off is because its customers ‘increasingly use more data and opt for the latest 4G smartphones.’

And, similarly to Telstra, Optus says ‘this opens up options to re-allocate some of this spectrum to improve customer experience and mobile services.’

Optus first launched its 2G GSM network way back in 1993 with basic voice and text, including ‘basic data services such as text-based sports results and stock prices’ which was well before the days of even Windows 95.

Dennis Wong, Optus Networks’ Acting MD said: “Greater smartphone usage and advances in 4G technology are driving customer preferences for more mobile data and faster speeds and there has been a steady decline in 2G traffic and customers in the last few years.

“2G now constitutes a fraction of our total mobile network traffic and is declining significantly year on year. Mobile service providers globally, including in Australia and our parent company Singtel in Singapore, are closing down 2G networks to support newer technologies.”

As you can imagine, Virgin Mobile and all of Optus’ MVNO customers such as Amaysim will also lose access to the Optus 2G network after April 2017.

Wong said: “Our priority is to prepare our customers for this change and ensure they have sufficient time to upgrade to newer devices. Optus will provide affected customers with more details about options available to them closer to the closure of our 2G network in April 2017. For some customers this might be a simple SIM upgrade.”

Unfortunately, for some customers, it will mean a more complicated device upgrade, which could be pricey.

If your device or phone says ‘2G, GPRS, EDGE or E’ at the top of your mobile or device’s screen, you are using the 2G network.

If you need more information from Optus or want the company’s help in upgrading devices or SIMs, Optus advises you can call 13 43 15 (and select Option 2) or you can email Optus at this address:

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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