SINGAPORE: About 100,000 mobile subscribers were still registered on 2G networks as of Friday (Mar 31), according to figures from the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).
This is despite efforts over the past two years by the authorities and telcos, reminding users to switch to 3G and 4G networks. Telcos will progressively wind down the 2G network from Apr 1, to free up resources and meet user demand for newer 3G and 4G services. The shutdown will be completed by Apr 18, meaning those with 2G phones will not be able to make calls or send SMSes.
Many of those on the 2G network were elderly mobile phone users. Most Channel NewsAsia spoke with said they have started to use 3G and 4G phones, with some making the switch just days before the start of the 2G shutdown.
One of them is 67-year-old Rompa Kamala who said more could be done to improve awareness of why the switch is needed. "The government should do more to tell more, so the people, those who don't understand, they can do it. Because I still come across a few people they don't know,” she said.
This was a point shared by Anne Quah, 75, who said: "If the elderly ones are staying with young children or grandchildren, maybe they will be able to relay the message to them. But if they're staying on their own, I don't think so."
IMDA said it has stepped up engagement over the past three months, working with telcos, grassroots agencies and the Pioneer Generation Office to raise awareness amongst 2G users of what their options are before the network shutdown. Efforts included roadshows in neighbourhoods, advertisements in radio, newspaper and on television, as well as posters and brochures at Community Centers, libraries and foreign worker dormitories.
“To facilitate migration, IMDA has required mobile network operators (MNOs) to allow consumers to retain their existing subscription plans and offer low-cost 3G handsets of below S$50, similar to 2G handsets. MNOs are also offering re-contract plans with zero-dollar handset packages,” said an IMDA spokesperson.
SPIKE IN ELDERLY CUSTOMERS IN RECENT DAYS
A phone retailer based in Toa Payoh said it noticed a spike in elderly customers looking to buy 3G phones in recent days and most of them already knew how to operate one. “Only one or two customers need to be taught and we can teach them," said the manager of 99 Connection Johnny Ong.
Some older folks, like 69-year-old Anthony Paglar, are also doing their part to brush up on their technology skills and help others who lack the experience. Mr Paglar himself has yet to make the jump to 3G but told Channel NewsAsia that he is familiar with technology.
"There was one elderly gentleman over there. I showed him how to use (a smartphone), so he was quite happy,” said Mr Paglar, who is also planning to upgrade in the coming days. “As long as there's somebody there to help them, I think they will be very happy."
Others like 76-year-old Lee Fook Lam are confident they can catch up with their younger, tech-savvy peers. "Those born in the 40s and 50s learn much faster, they can keep up. We older folks can also do it one step at a time," said Mr Lam.
Telcos said they have been actively reaching out to 2G customers.
Singtel, for instance, said it is holding a “Goodbye 2G, Hello 3G/4G” roadshow for prepaid customers from Apr 1 at the Singtel Comcentre for prepaid customers to purchase 3G or 4G phones, and to switch out SIM cards. It will also be extending the operating hours of its Comcentre Shop – opening an hour earlier and an hour later over the weekend.
Similarly, StarHub is holding roadshows offering upgrade packages at several SingPost locations and deploying extra manpower to help customers “during this last minute rush”. These include the Bedok Central Post Office, Bukit Merah Central Post office and the Woodlands Post Office.
M1 is also offering selected 3G models on a rental basis with ownership transferred upon completion of a 12-month contract, as well as selected 3G and 4G models for less than S$60 inclusive of a prepaid card, alongside trade-in offers for 2G phones.
IMDA said more than 100,000 have successfully transitioned to 3G or 4G phones over the past year.