Singaporean mobile network operators (MNOs) M1, Singtel and StarHub said Wednesday they will retire all 3G services, including voice, messaging and data, which are no longer widely used in Singapore, with effect from July 31, 2024.

With the retirement of 3G networks, mobile operators will be able to repurpose some of the freed-up spectrum to improve 5G services, which offer faster speeds, higher data throughput, as well as enhanced security and reliability, the telcos said in a joint statement.

Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) also said in a separate statement that this move is in view of advancements in the mobile communication space where 3G has been largely replaced by 4G and 5G.

According to the statement, 3G entered the Singapore market almost 20 years ago. Thereafter, the next wave of 4G developments took place in the mid-2010s.

Since the introduction of 5G in 2022, 5G subscriptions have gained prevalence, making up 15 percent of total mobile subscribers and this continues to grow.

Overall, close to 99 percent of Singapore’s mobile subscribers are currently on 4G/5G.

As of April 2023, the 3G subscriber base makes up approximately 1 percent of the total mobile subscriptions and it is on the decline.

Internationally, operators such as those in Australia and the United States are similarly expected to retire 3G services by 2024, while some countries like the United States and Malaysia have retired 3G services.

“When the 3G networks retire, more spectrum can be released for investment in 5G to provide a better experience for users and support enterprises undergoing digital transformation,” said IMDA.

Aaccording to the telcos, over the last few years, mobile operators have been conducting outreach programs to encourage 3G customers to migrate to newer 4G and 5G mobile networks.

These newer networks are already Singapore’s preferred mobile networks and serve as crucial enablers for consumer and enterprise users.

According to the them, only a small percentage of customers continue to use 3G services, comprising users on older mobile devices or SIM cards that cannot connect to newer 4G and 5G networks.

Before retiring their 3G services, IMDA said MNOs must ensure that their remaining 3G subscribers, both individual and enterprise users, transit smoothly onto the 4G/5G networks.

To facilitate the transition, it said the MNOs will be offering the following support to individual users and enterprise users.

For individual users, it said options will be given to convert from 3G to 4G plans on terms that are no worse-off.

MNOs will also provide a range of mobile phone options at different price points.

As for enterprise users, it said support will be given for enterprises to seamlessly migrate to 4G or other alternative services, minimizing disruption to their existing services.

It said retailers will also no longer be able to sell 3G mobile phones and/or 4G models requiring 3G for voice calls. This will take effect from February 1, 2024 (except for export purposes).

This one-year transition period is given to allow MNOs to adequately engage and migrate their remaining 3G subscribers before retiring their 3G services.

According to the telcos, in the coming months, proactive measures will be taken to communicate the transition to 3G users and extend assistance to those who need help migrating.

For customers who are on 3G-only or early release 4G handsets, they said a wide range of 4G and 5G handsets are available at different price points to enable customers to migrate to newer networks conveniently.

For customers who are still using 3G-only SIM cards, they said they can visit their operator’s website to find out where to upgrade their SIM cards.

M1, a subsidiary of Keppel Corporation, is Singapore’s digital network operator, providing a suite of communications services, including mobile, fixed line and fibre offerings, to over two million customers.

Since the launch of its commercial services in 1997, M1 has become one of the first operators to be awarded one of Singapore’s two nationwide 5G standalone network licences.

It is also the first operator to offer nationwide 4G service, as well as ultra high-speed fixed broadband, fixed voice and other services on the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (NGNBN).

Singtel is Asia’s communications technology group, providing a portfolio of services from next-generation communication, 5G and technology services to infotainment to both consumers and businesses.

The group has presence in Asia, Australia and Africa and reaches over 770 million mobile customers in 21 countries.

Its infrastructure and technology services for businesses span 21 countries, with more than 428 direct points of presence in 362 cities.

StarHub is a homegrown Singapore company listed on the Singapore Exchange mainboard that delivers communications, entertainment and digital services.

With its extensive fibre and wireless infrastructure and global partnerships, the firm provides mobile and fixed services, a broad suite of premium content, and a diverse range of communication solutions.

The firm develops and delivers to corporate and government clients solutions incorporating artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, data analytics, internet of things and robotics.

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