2G in Australia: Is it available and what are my alternatives?
Australia's long-lived 2G network ceased operations in 2017, replaced by its 3G and 4G successors.
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- As of mid-2018, all 2G networks are offline within Australia.
- This means 2G SIM cards no longer work anywhere in the country.
- Upgrading to a 3G/4G SIM card is necessary to stay connected.
After multiple delays and a confusingly staggered shutdown schedule, the 2G network is now completely offline in Australia.
When did the 2G network go offline?
The old, low-speed mobile network had a surprisingly long life, all things considered. Having been superseded by the faster 3G and 4G networks in 2003 and 2013 respectively, 2G began saying its goodbyes in 2016 when Telstra shut down its mainland 2G network. Optus wasn't far behind, turning off its entire 2G network by August 2017. Vodafone was supposed to follow by winding down 2G in September 2017, but a raft of delays saw it keep its 2G network alive until June 2018.
How does the 2G shutdown affect me?
For the most part, the death of 2G has little impact on the average Aussie. Modern phones are built to operate over 3G and 4G networks, and Telstra, Optus and Vodafone all boast 3G/4G coverage to over 95% of the Australian population.
The one caveat to keep in mind is that 2G is still operational in some international markets. If you're looking to import a phone from one of those markets, be sure to check that the phone in question isn't a 2G-only handset, as it will not function in Australia. Similarly, if an import phone supports two SIM cards, double check the capabilities of each SIM card slot. Many dual SIM import phones have one slot for 3G/4G SIM cards and one restricted to 2G SIM cards. In Australia, that 2G slot is effectively useless, stripping the phone of its dual SIM appeal.
What if I still have a 2G SIM card?
If you've been hanging onto an old 2G SIM card, the sad fact is that it will no longer do you much good. Even if you have a 2G-compatible handset, you won't get any reception or connectivity by slotting in that 2G SIM card. That means no calls, no texts and no Internet access. Your only option is to purchase a new 3G or 4G SIM card and request to have your old phone number ported over to your new plan, assuming you want to keep that same number.
What if I travel with a 2G SIM card?
If you spend a lot of time overseas, you may still get a lot of use out of an international 2G SIM card. 2G networks are still active in certain parts of the US and Europe, and plans that operate on these networks are often quite cheap. Try to use that SIM card in Australia, however, and you'll be stuck with a big red cross over the signal bars on your phone.
Should you have a dual-SIM phone, you'll need to switch over to your 3G or 4G SIM card to make and receive calls within Australia. If your phone is strictly 2G-only, you'll have to spring for an entirely new handset along with a 3G or 4G SIM card in order to stay connected throughout Australia.
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