2G and 3G – outdated as a Volvo 240

We are getting closer and closer to the point in life when the 3G and GSM networks we have embraced for years will be switched off permanently. These networks have become as much a natural part of our life in 2021 as it was to be able to pop into the Volvo dealership in 1984 and buy a new Volvo 240.

Good for its time – but not now

Safe tried and tested networks that chug along, like old Volvo cars, that you can always rely on and hold on to when the wind blows. Just look at how operators react when it’s windy, when there’s a power cut, only 2G is used. Always, that’s it.

I think it was about a year ago I stuck my chin out and declared that 2G and 3G had an expiry date. Some thought I was exaggerating. Others were painting another picture, I was the Ralph Nader of the telecoms industry, sort of.

For those of you who don’t know, Nader made a name for himself in the 60s when he pointed out the lack of safety in General Motors cars, especially the Chevrolet Corvair. The Corvair, with its rear engine and swing axles, was designed in the same way as a VW Beetle, an old design that posed a risk to tip over during hard cornering or sudden moves.

Nader has done a lot of work protecting consumers, (if you are Swedish like me, I would describe him as a Sverker Olofsson with a lawyer’s title, sort of).

Now, more and more people understand that the 3G era will be over, quite soon. GSM, or 2G, will be shut down soon after.

Now a few words for those of you who realize that you need to replace large parts of your installed hardware like routers, modems, alarms, and so on, using the soon-to-be outdated technology.

First of all, I understand that the journey may be both long and complicated. But it won’t go away just because you wait.

The upside for the climate is that 5G networks are more energy efficient. Figures I found on the internet say that an LTE infrastructure needs up to 30 kWh per square kilometer. One based only on 5G can get down to a fifth, i.e. 6 kWh/sq km, plus handle more devices on that surface. In 2015, mobile networks consumed 1.15% of the total energy available in power grids and contributed to 0.53% of the total, global CO2 impact.

Another important aspect is that all the Netflixing, tick-tocking and streaming is eating data for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Today we spend about 80 EB per month, by 2024 the figure will be 150 EB (EB or EXAbyte is 10 to the power of 18 bytes). So building this with 4G alone is extremely energy-intensive.

While switching is a pain, and a lot of technology will need to be renewed, it is also important that we get the electricity used in mobile networks down.