Lucas Boncourt for Localtis
After the copper network, Orange is working to “retire” its 2G and 3G mobile phone networks to be replaced by 4G and 5G. The 2030 horizon is about the same as for copper. With two notable differences: this is a European decision and Orange is, at least for now, the only French mobile operator to provide a detailed timetable.
Less environmental impact
The operator justifies this decision by the “benefits” that users should get from it, in terms of “network quality and reliability”. It also claims that 4G and 5G are “more secure, resilient and energy efficient technologies” that benefit the “environment”. A statement that also echoes ANFR’s findings on the evolution of mobile wave exposure. The agency tasked with measuring the impact of 5G on electromagnetic wave exposure (see our article) did point out the fact that the answer largely depends on the decision to keep or abandon older mobile technologies. The shutdown schedule for 2G and 3G Orange varies by country. In France, the operator plans to shut down 2G in 2025 and 3G in 2028, compared to 2030 in most other European countries. The frequencies left free by the two technologies will be reallocated to improve the coverage and capacity of 4G and 5G networks. In addition, this process has largely started in France, as operators have already equipped all 3G antennas with 4G equipment under the Mobile New Deal.
Many systems to change
Orange takes care to confirm that it will support its customers and connected object specialists in the “migration”. Accuracy is important, because in addition to 2G/3G mobile phone users who are being asked to migrate to smartphones, the entire Connected Objects (IOT) industrial sector must prepare for the transition. By 2028, all connected objects using 2G and 3G will indeed need to be upgraded. For local authorities, the list of relevant equipment ranges from traffic light control to parking meters, including certain payment terminals, multiple sensors (metering, pollutants, etc.), alarms, and other remote maintenance facilities. In passing, it should be noted that the field of technological alternatives to 2G/3G is shrinking. Sigfox, the Toulouse-based industrialist that offered a low-speed network designed for connected facilities, announced in late January that it was on the verge of bankruptcy. And Objenious, a subsidiary of Bouygues that uses rival LoraWan technology, said it wants to migrate all of its solutions to 5G.
The score is getting harder
Orange believes the end of 2G and 3G is part of a “natural hardware upgrade cycle” to counter criticism from those who would like to accuse it of playing planned obsolescence. While 4G/5G solutions promise to be more resource efficient—a carrier claim that has yet to be tested—it should be emphasized that this claim will not be neutral for local government budgets. Especially since these upgrades are added to the induced copper end. With the shutdown of PSTN services, and then all those that use copper, many services (fax, emergency line, alarms, etc.) must be changed. Taken together, these investments can be significant for communities.
Unscrupulous companies are using media announcements – running out of copper for now, ending 2G/3G tomorrow – to promote products or services that uninformed users don’t need. Therefore, switching to fiber is neither mandatory nor even mandatory, as wireless solutions may be more suitable for certain configurations. Orange is also required to provide quality copper service up to a critical point, which is still being discussed with local elected officials. Several city council members have been scammed, according to information provided by AMF, and the association is urging elected officials to inventory their telecommunications contracts (specialized communications channels, copiers, etc.) with particular vigilance for renewal points.