Minister Ntshavheni thinks it’s acceptable to cut off millions of South Africans

Issued by Dianne Kohler Barnard MP – DA Shadow Minister of Communications
08 Sep 2022 in News

Please find attached a soundbite for Dianne Kohler Barnard MP.

The Minister of Communications, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, has announced a sweeping draft plan to shut down 2G and 3G devices, beginning in as little as nine months. Minister Ntshavheni calls it the “next-generation radio frequency spectrum”. This would include banning the licencing of all 2G and 3G devices, as well as the suspension of services on these networks.

Perhaps the Minister should have spoken with the citizens of this country before announcing such a move. One of the most threatened groups in South Africa, our rural-based farmers, rely almost exclusively on 2 and 3G devices. Had she checked, this information is easily attainable.

It is firstly important to note that 4G and 5G devices are considerably more expensive than 2 and 3G devices. This means that South Africans who currently use the 2 and 3G networks, would see their devices rendered useless. Citizens who cannot afford it would then be forced to spend more money, just to stay connected to a network. The very lives of farmers and farmworkers, who rely on contacting neighbours when under attack, will be endangered.

Vodafone has revealed that about 6 million 2G devices are sold annually in South Africa and that about 14 million of its customers are still using 2G phones.

South Africa is not alone in this, as huge numbers of people worldwide still depend on 2G networks, and the vast majority of brand-new, top-of-the-line phones on the market today have no way to switch off 2G support.

While there are plans to phase out 2G and 3G networks to make more room for 5G capability, this Minister must first find a method by which the vast majority of South African citizens would be able to afford these changes.

It is estimated that tens of thousands of different Android phones will stop working once the 2 and 3G networks are shut down.

Older devices could stop working altogether, losing the ability to text, make phone calls or connect to the internet. This includes tablets, certain medical alert devices, smartwatches and security systems.

Within the industry, there are enormous concerns about the expense of changing to more advanced technologies; as well as client’s reliance on 2G for machine-to-machine applications.

Cabinet has approved the policy and the publication of the Next Generation Radio Frequency Spectrum draft and it will be open for public comment.

This must be more than a tick box exercise, and a full impact assessment must be undertaken – but then it should have been undertaken before this policy was approved.