The Inevitable Sunset
A number of carriers have announced that they are closing down their 2G and 3G networks this year. The UK government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) advises that the UK mobile network operators have confirmed that they do not intend to offer 2G and 3G mobile networks past 2033 at the latest. Some individual operators plan to switch off their networks, particularly their 3G networks, earlier than this date.
2G and 3G networks were ideal for applications with small, infrequent data requirements. With the advent of newer 4G and 5G technologies, manufacturers and cell service providers are shifting away from the older technology to LTE (Long Term Evolution) solutions. 4G and 5G are based wholly on IP networking, unlike 2G and 3G, and supporting both types of network leads to increased cost and complexity – a key reason to sunset 2G and 3G. 4G was initially unable to support voice – however, VoLTE (Voice over LTE – Long Term Evolution) addressed this issue so there is no longer a need to retain 2G for voice support. The sunset is also an important opportunity to free up bandwidth to support capacity growth for 4G and 5G, enabling the creation of a faster and more expansive 5G highway.
The situation is complex to navigate, as the schedule of “sunset” shutdowns varies by carrier, technology and region.
What Problems Can Arise?
As the sunset progresses, Internet of Things (IoT) deployments that rely on 2G and 3G cellular-based devices will inevitably face disruption. Any devices based on this technology — phones, tablets, telematics hardware — will no longer have a network connection and will not work. Fleets using 3G devices will need to upgrade to 4G/5G technology in order avoid a loss of connectivity. Customers are also experiencing connectivity issues with 4G devices as a result of the 2G/3G network “sunsets”, as devices may go offline due to firmware, setup or access mode issues.
To address these problems, firmware updates may be required, settings may need adjusting to enable or disable operating modes, and in some cases devices may need to be relocated to access a 4G signal. We would recommend a thorough audit, to ensure you know exactly which network each of your devices is using and where you may be impacted, and to check that no legacy technologies or applications could trip you up.
Guidance Available to You
The Solid State engineering team can advise you on the steps to take to avoid any interruptions in your connectivity, guide you to (and through) the support information available from connectivity suppliers and help you to avoid the pitfalls and future proof your systems.
It is possible that LoRa, NB-IOT, LTE-M, 5G, CAT-M1, and other technologies could become viable replacement technologies for cellular communications in some applications. Our engineers can advise on the alternatives suitable for your specific needs.