Shutting down 2G network will make eCall useless in 36 million cars

Carmakers face a million-euro debacle as telecom operators plan to shut down the 2G network, enabling the compulsory safety system eCall. Considered outdated and inefficient, replacing 2G might trigger a recall for over 36 million cars. Who will pay for the upgrade?

In Europe, mobile operators are gearing up to shut down their 2G networks, citing obsolescence, high costs, and significant energy consumption. However, car manufacturers are protesting because their cars rely on these networks for the eCall system, a mandatory emergency communication feature in vehicles since 2018. Even with the right tools, they can’t upgrade current car models to higher-grade networks under European legislation.

Ecall, present in over 36 million European cars, automatically or manually, contacts emergency services following a road accident. It’s a shortcut for dialing 112.

The potential discontinuation of 2G networks, targeted between 2025 and 2026 for 2G and 2028 to 2029 for 3G by major telecom operators in the EU, threatens the functionality of eCall, which automakers can’t abandon. Each day, roughly 27,000 cars leave European factories with the first-generation eCall.

2G less climate-friendly

Mobile operators have the most substantial hand in the quarrel, with the decision-making part of member state policy. Every telecom company can decide by itself based on commercial scenarios.

Urged by automotive lobbies, the European Commission demanded an impact study, with the outcome of proposing a minimal 2G service in each EU country. Telecom operators argue against this by pointing out that too few calls are made annually to make it economically viable.

The modernized 4G and 5G networks perform better and use less energy, prompting mobile operators to claim that discontinuation is also more climate-friendly.

2 G’s coverage is better than 3G’s, so carmakers still favor it. However, defending mobile operators claim they have been warning car brands for years over the upcoming closure of the older networks. They plan to use the 2G network to reinforce 5G.

Carmakers can’t upgrade

If the telecom companies persist in the shutdowns, those 36 million cars must be recalled and retrofitted to align them with compulsory safety regulations. Otherwise, their emergency calls won’t be heard.

However, there’s no guarantee that each owner will respond to the manufacturer’s summons. According to the European Commission, the entire operation costs a small fortune – 13 billion euros, or the yearly profit of one of the larger car groups.

On the other hand, given that a car’s lifespan in Europe is roughly 15 years, operators would need to keep 2G running until 2041 at approximately 40 million euros per country per year. Neither party is willing to bite the bullet, leaving the European Commission to mediate a situation it has helped to surface.

Automakers are also displeased with second-generation eCall. Based on 4G and 5G, it will become mandatory in 2026, with a voluntary interim period starting in 2025. The car brands, technically capable of advancing the upgrade, are not allowed to do so for this year. So, an additional 10 million cars with 2G eCall will hit the market.

Proximus is abandoning 3G this year in Belgium and has promised to keep 2G up and running until at least 2027. Telenet joins that strategy. Its partner, Orange, plans to wind down the latter by the end of 2028.


Ready to join the conversation?

You must be an active subscriber to leave a comment.

Subscribe Today

You Might Also Like