Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Telenor Norway to End 3G Service Ahead of 2G Service

In a recent statement, Bjørn Amundsen, Telenor Norway’s director of coverage, said that within five years the operator’s 4G/LTE network will match its 2G network in terms of coverage. Telenor Norway has already deployed 4G/LTE service in 42 of 87 municipalities in the country’s key northern territories and is on target to cover all municipalities in northern Norway by the end of 2016. Currently, subscribers can only access data on Telenor’s 4G/LTE network, but the operator plans to launch VoLTE before the end of the year. Amundsen also said that the MNO will phase out its 2G network within a decade and will end 3G service sooner than that. It will maintain its 2G network longer than its 3G network due to device compatibility issues and the growing number of M2M services.

Telenor Norway’s prediction that it will end 3G service ahead of 2G service comes as no surprise, as we have seen other operators, such as those in the U.K., state the same thing. In New York, U.S. mobile operator Verizon Wireless has shut off 20 MHz of spectrum that was once allocated for 3G service and is running 4G in its place. The operator is doing the same on its network in Cleveland, OH. Lastly, as we have previously reported, in India, where adoption of 3G networks has been slow, some operators may go directly to 4G from 2G networks, bypassing 3G service altogether. Requiring operators to maintain three networks is very expensive, so it is critical that they choose how to repurpose spectrum based on return of their investment. For most operators, 2G networks are still an important source of revenue, particularly in rural areas, where the return on investment for 4G infrastructure upgrades will not be enough to make it very profitable. In addition, 2G service uses a low frequency, which results in reduced operating costs for MNOs. On the other hand, 3G competes more closely with 4G in that it is data-focused, and with 4G service, operators may be able to upsell users to larger data packages due to the faster speeds it offers. As Telenor Norway begins to refarm its spectrum, 3G service may well be the first to go, mainly to ensure that there will not be any loss of coverage in hard-to-serve areas and to ensure that users with older handsets still receive service. Once its 4G/LTE network can support VoLTE across the country and more users have 4G-enabled smartphones, we may still not see the total elimination of 2G service, because 2G is particularly useful for M2M connectivity, which is in growing demand.

The above item appeared in a recent issue of The Tarifica Alert, a weekly resource that analyzes noteworthy developments in the telecoms industry from around the world. Contact Tarifica for a subscription to the Tarifica Alert. 
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