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Businesses, seniors slow to pull plug on 2G network

Businesses, seniors slow to pull plug on 2G network
2G phone display at 123 Mobile at Little India. Photo: Wee Teck Hian/TODAY

Businesses, seniors slow to pull plug on 2G network

SINGAPORE — Roughly four months before the 2G network is shut down in April, some major businesses — including SMRT and NETS — are yet to fully switch to 3G or 4G, despite some prompting from the authorities and telcos in recent months.

Businesses hold some of the 143,300 2G lines that are still active in Singapore, with seniors and migrant workers being among the two other main groups of laggards.

Once the 2G network ceases, anyone still using handsets or any other equipment on 2G will basically have all services cut. For businesses, these pieces of equipment range from payment terminals used by retailers, restaurants and taxis to services used by logistics or transport companies to track their fleet of vehicles.

According to those in the industry, the companies that have been tardy in upgrading to 3G or 4G services are mostly in the services, retail, and food & beverage industries, and are a mix of large and small companies.

TODAY understands that SMRT is using 2G service to track the locations of its buses, and possibly to send back data on the performances of its engines. SMRT declined to comment when approached.

As for payment services provider NETS, all its payment terminals were using 2G Sim cards, and it is in the midst of switching all its 95,000 acceptance points to 3G-compliant terminals. In response to queries, a spokesman said: “By April 2017, all NETS acceptance points/terminals will be fully 3G compatible.”

Industry insiders, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said businesses may be dragging their feet because “they want to monetise their existing equipment for as long as they can”.

Some businesses may need to change the entire payment terminal in which the Sim card is slotted, depending on whether the interface can accept the newer 3G Sim cards.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), which announced the cessation of the 2G network in June last year, said the three telcos here are required to inform enterprises of the transition, as well as “render any assistance to ensure a seamless migration”.

All three telcos said they are working “very closely” with their business customers to help them switch over to the 3G or 4G mobile network.

Among seniors, one obstacle to the transition is the fear of the unknown.

Retiree Paul Shum, 80, said: “I love my current 2G phone, I’m so used to it. If I get a new phone, I’ve to learn the new functions all over again.”

He is also worried that connecting to the Internet on the go could be expensive. Currently, his S$20 pre-paid Sim card lasts him up to three months, as he uses it only for calls and SMSes.

“If I use the phone to listen to music or watch videos, it will lose battery very fast, my friends tell me. Also, I might have to pay for data,” Mr Shum added.

A spokesman for RSVP Singapore – The Organisation of Senior Volunteers, added: “Most of our seniors are hesitant about the transition as they may not be familiar with how to use the phone apps, or are not comfortable navigating a smartphone in English.”

Singtel has organised workshops to teach seniors how to use smartphones, while StarHub is calling up older subscribers to tell them how to upgrade.

As for migrant workers, telcos said they are working with the Migrant Workers Centre (MWC) to make affordable 3G handsets available at roadshows. According to the MWC, there will be six roadshows held next Sunday.

Mr Francis Seah, senior specialist at MWC, said: “We have been trying to spread the message that if they don’t upgrade, they will lose contact with their loved ones ... it is mostly the Bengali and Tamil workers still holding on to their numeric handsets. For this group, money is harder to come by, and upgrading their phones is quite a big expenditure.”