In our last article, we looked at the challenges many of the world’s segments of society face as Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) begin to phase out older legacy 2G and 3G networks and transition to 4G and 5G networks. While for many subscribers, the biggest challenges remained the cost of a handset and cost of data (per GB), we also saw how MNOs can help their subscribers migrate to 4G networks by offering an array of affordable phones that meet their customers’ needs. Providing subscribers who are clinging to their 2G feature phones with access to high-quality and highly affordable 4G smart feature phones is the first step towards migrating them to 4G networks and keeping them from slipping into the digital darkness of the coming 2G and 3G sunset.

To generate subscriber excitement and the desire to migrate to new 4G networks, MNOs need to not only win them over with affordability; they also need to win over users in a way that benefits both the subscriber and the MNO. While providing affordable smart feature phones is an essential first step, if MNOs are to begin to experience greater average revenue per user (ARPU), they need to provide more than just quality, affordable phones. They need to also provide subscribers with a reason to use their phones and experience the benefits that 4G networks can provide by delivering a more connected mobile life through value-rich applications like Facebook, WhatsApp or YouTube.

The key to encouraging 2G subscribers to give up their 2G phones and embrace an affordable smart feature phone is to focus on the thing that makes us all human – the emotional connection.

Creating Emotional Connection, No Matter How Far Away

To help subscribers move on from their feature phones and embrace 4G devices, MNOs need to focus on improving the customer experience by highlighting applications that bring people closer together. Many 2G and 3G subscribers in the Middle East and Africa represent a large migrant workforce that has chosen to work far from home to provide for their families. Separated by distance and the high cost of travel, many do not see their loved ones for long periods of time.

If there was a positive thing to come out of the global COVID pandemic, it has been the increased availability and use of video calling through applications like Facetime, Zoom and WhatsApp. These apps have helped make the world smaller; not only can we talk with loved ones, we can see their faces and their expressions, and we can share things in a way that a voice call never could. As people begin to experience the benefits of not just hearing but seeing their family and friends, they are more likely to look for plans that provide them with more data to allow them to connect more. By closely integrating and promoting data plans that offer greater connection with branded smart feature phones, MNOs can begin to establish increased customer loyalty while also increasing their ARPU.

As subscribers connect to their families, they also begin to discover and look for other ways to connect to home, by staying current on the news, following along with favorite sports teams or watching native-language movies or YouTube in their own languages. Research conducted by Radisys’ sister corporation, Reliance Jio, found that smart feature phones with meaningful apps help increase data consumption on its 4G network 35-70x compared to standard feature phones.

In short, apps that create greater connections become the accelerating factor for greater 4G adoption, allowing MNOs to not only migrate current subscribers but also disrupt the market and differentiate themselves from competitors.

Bundled Apps for Easy Adoption and “Stickiness”

To motivate 2G subscribers’ journeys into a new digital lifestyle, the barriers need to be low, not just in terms of cost, but also in terms of ease of use. MNOs need to be mindful of making choices that will resonate with their subscribers. Through a partnership with KaiOS Technologies, Radisys can help MNOs deliver a branded digital experience that eliminates many of the customer frustrations that come with upgrading to new technologies and services and also provide access to 1,000+ downloadable apps in the Kai apps store. Pre-loaded apps on the smart feature phone make it easier for subscribers to start using the app right away, thus eliminating the hassles and frustrations that can occur during the loading process.

A successful digital engagement experience facilitates communication, content and commerce in a consistent and user-friendly way. Integrating applications and creating a smooth deployment of services for users will drive customer growth, loyalty and revenue. With easily upgradeable service tiers, subscribers can choose their path to the service that they desire.

Based on extensive experience with MNOs around the world, Radisys knows how to create programs that drive ARPU via a new digital lifestyle for customers. Radisys can work with MNOs to create offers that are tailored to the local market, optimize the selected applications for use on their network and ensure that the device and applications are ready to use right out of the box. Radisys can even help tailor the phone to allow customers to use their smart feature phone to make purchases as well as view targeted advertising and marketing content from sponsors, providing further revenue-generating opportunities for MNOs. 

Some users upgrading from 2G to 4G may need an entry-level smartphone.  Indian Operator Jio (a sister company of Radisys) launched such an entry-level device in collaboration with Google and Qualcomm to attract such upgraders. This device comes bundled with financing options, voice-first features and interactivity in different languages, and is pre-loaded with Jio’s own services and content. Such service-oriented differentiation would help operators offer relevant, premium experiences and services to their subscribers. These best practices can be used by operators in the Middle East and Africa to help migrate their 2G subscriber base to 4G.


Just because a mobile phone is affordable doesn’t mean that it can’t help MNOs generate revenue. Effectively transitioning subscribers from sunsetting 2G and 3G networks provides great opportunities by focusing on the customer experience and providing access to the right features. Revenue from these converted subscribers can come from delivering entertainment and content apps such as YouTube and hosted cinema experiences.

Radisys is ready to help MNOs navigate the challenges of the 2G and 3G network sunset by providing affordable handsets that, combined with connection-focused applications and integrated pricing plans, will deliver the right mix of digital services and applications that increase not only data consumption but customer loyalty as well.

Offering a more connected mobile life through value-rich applications not only ensures that 2G subscribers avoid the coming 2G sunset; it also provides a clear path for MNOs to elevate the customer experience while growing revenues.

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