The 2G shutdown & 3G sunset and their best alternatives

Since its launch in 2002, the third generation of mobile networks, also known as 3G, has played an important role in technology development and has created the global wireless network we know today. It has provided to people the initial connectivity for smartphones and other connected devices which are now part of our everyday life. Most people don’t know about the lifespan of former mobile network generations. But it will shut down, and it will soon!

The challenge of upgrading or migrating an already existing IoT setup based on those old networks may be concerning for any business. The question of the success of deployment and the return of investment shall be answered, and risks are mitigated. Let us explain how we can address them.


Old mobile networks shutdown: what to expect?

Old generation mobile networks are deployed all around the world. Historically, all countries have deployed mobile networks for their people usage, and it has become an easy IoT solution to deploy locally. Antennas and signals are widely used, by both people and industry, making this technology very robust. But 2G and 3G networks are thought to be switched off in the next two years, making most people and companies work on their sunset plans for those connectivities, in order not to face disastrous discontinuation of their own local IoT network service.


2G and 3G networks as an IoT use case

2G and 3G networks have traditionally been a good option for IoT use cases, as they do not require high bandwidth and their use of data tends to be quite low. These networks have been commonly used for the past 25 years, making the coverage very wide and as a result, becoming a common choice for those who wanted to deploy IoT networks. They were particularly well adapted in terms of network coverage (indoor/outdoor), and a good solution for high mobility applications. For example, they were used to track a fleet of vehicles, or when a voice signal had to be carried.


Carriers plans: when will 3G be shut down? is the 2G network still available?

Those are the 2 big questions that an IoT operator needs to ask himself when looking for the future of its operations or when obsolescence becomes a threat to its business: when will 3G be shut down? is the 2G network still available?

However, technology has moved into 4G/LTE networks. Personal devices require more and more bandwidth, with applications such as video streaming, videoconferencing applications, video calls, gaming, etc. Carriers need to widely deploy the new generation networks to reach the biggest number of people.

This situation leads them to heavily invest in the latest generation of networks. At the same time, it makes less and less sense for them to maintain the old generation, considering the cost and the low return of investment. Additionally, dropping the old generation networks will allow carriers to redeploy 2G and 3G frequencies to their 4G/LTE network. This is particularly interesting in countries where frequency allocation is very expensive.


They are all planning to shut 2G and 3G networks down. The main cell providers plans for these connectivities are:

  • AT&T has already closed down 2G networks and will be completing the sunset of 3G by the end of 2021.
  • Verizon and T-Mobile completed the closedown of both networks in 2019 and 2020 consecutively.

As a consequence, any business having deployed and still operating an IoT network based on an old connectivity generation need to settle a plan for the future. Very often, a company business tightly depends on an IoT technology-based setup.


How to migrate from a 2G/3G network while mitigating deployment risks?

Because of the 2G shutdown and 3G sunset, we would like to provide an updated insider look at how this migration works and the alternatives it offers.

To be able to carry out an appropriate network change, some plans must be made, not only to ensure the correct implementation of the network but also to guarantee that the chosen new network is exactly what the use case requires. For this we offer to take the following steps:


Check your current situation vs. your business requirements and potential update of your setup

First thing first, we need to properly identify the networks that will be impacted within your organization. It has to be analyzed with your operational needs in mind. A full analysis needs to be completed for your company to check if those needs have to be updated, according to the current situation of your business and its outlook for the years to come. It would help elaborate the best solution, being an update, and replacement or a recreation of a whole new network.

The first idea that usually comes up is to replace a 2G or 3G network with a 4G one. But it may not be the best solution, especially when it comes to IoT use cases. This is due to the inherent drawbacks of mobile networks: it consumes more energy and creates a dependency on a telephony operator.

On the other hand, the LPWAN technology comes with a lot of advantages. First, you have full control of your network, from server to devices: your data is not carried by a third-party operator. Second, this technology is very low in terms of energy consumed, which allows for long-lasting batteries and low maintenance overhead costs. More, it has a longer range than you may expect for such small devices. And finally, it is very cost-efficient considering the service it provides.

For all those reasons, at Actility, we promote the LoRaWAN (Long Range Area Network) as the best alternative to old-generation mobile networks. Getting to understand what best suits each situation is not always easy. Here you can find a selection of different Starter Kits to experience how LoRaWAN can help your specific use case, with kits for COVID-19 prevention, for LoRa proof of concepts, for indoor connectivity, or asset tracking, among many others.


Be future-proof while upgrading your IoT setup

It may be very tempting to go for the easiest and in reach solution, which would be to jump to the next mobile network generation. It may be reassuring to keep on investing in the same technology but without taking into account its inherent drawbacks in terms of energy and dependency.

But a long-term vision may very much be beneficial for your business in this situation of upgrading your setup due to mobile network obsolescence. Technology will continue to evolve forever and any network will get obsolete at times, but LoRaWAN is a lot more future-proof in terms of IoT networks.

Thanks to its very low energy consumption, compared to LTE-based devices, your IoT network will last longer without maintenance or upgrade. For example, the device's battery may last for up to 10 years without any replacement or charging needed. This would lead to obvious maintenance costs reductions and a significantly improved return of investment.

For identifying, qualifying, and selling relevant IoT solutions on major IoT markets, and to accelerate industrial IoT adoption, Actility has launched the Actility Solutions Ignite Program, addressing the huge and growing IoT ecosystem.


Choose a trustful partner and ensure your return of investment

The safety and robustness of your data are obviously very important to your business. The quality of your IoT network shall support your growth by ensuring that data is sent without any risk of losing it during the carrying process or due to connectivity problems.

This is where carefully choosing your trustful partner is of paramount importance. Actility has a strong background in large-scale project delivery and heritage in carrier-grade systems, which has made us become the global leader in IoT connectivity solutions deployment.

This will help you minimize the complexity of the transition and will help create a network that will be easily scalable in the future to support your growth. Efficient management is a must for this purpose, to guarantee that data will be correctly taken care of during the migration or scaling process.


Why choose us among other solutions?

With almost all the major LPWAN national networks in the world using the ThingPark platform, Actility is the unmissable actor when it comes to IoT network deployment. We enable end-to-end IoT solutions for all industries and offer a wide range of solutions through:

  • ThingPark Market for Smart Energy & Utilities: Easily shop integrated IoT solutions, your new devices, services, and get quotes with a few clicks. ThingPark Market is our online marketplace dedicated to our products. It is a very good place for you to start checking what our expertise is based on.

  • Smart Health: As the world has learned the hard way during the 2020 pandemic, health is a primary concern for humanity. IoT-based solutions can be of great help to tackle this new hazard. Check our health-related IoT solutions from contact and proximity detection dedicated to infection risks mitigation to food safety and cold chain management.

  • Smart Industry: You can check what our solutions are to enhance safety and efficiency in plants and factories. This area is very wide in terms of potential applications, and IoT technology can address a lot of challenges related to the efficiency of operations inside a building, safety of staff, object tracking, customer information, etc.

  • Smart Tracking: to address the need of tracking objects inside a wide area with low-powered, small, cheap, and robust IoT devices. Associated with a LoRaWAN based gateway, a connected setup is quickly deployed and at a reduced cost, for an easily scalable and future-proof data processing supporting your business growth.

  • Smart Agriculture: get the help of smart technology to improve farming efficiency with our environmentally connected sensors. In a world that needs more and more food, and in which food safety is of paramount importance, Smart Farming is a great support to face new challenges related to the environment, soil quality, yield per surface, etc.

  • Smart Cities: IoT technology has never been more useful in managing cities challenges. Population density is increasing inside cities, making transportation challenges more complex, and waste management is more and more complicated with recycling needs for example. Check our solutions by following the link!

  • Smart Logistics and Transportation: Easily deal with logistics complexity thanks to an IoT network. On the ThingPark Market, you will find evaluation kits, gateways, or devices to buy and deploy at your own pace and according to your needs, with our support.

What will happen next?

There is no doubt that IoT technology will continue to strongly grow in the coming years. It will be visible in all verticals, from transportation to farming, from industry to health, and in the cities around the world. A lot of new companies deploying IoT networks will appear more and more. We are dedicated to helping them with our expertise.

We also address all impacted vertical markets with our specific and tailored solutions. We maximize benefits from IoT network deployments with value-added applications and business services.

By choosing us for your next network scaling or old generation replacement, you ensure the success of your IoT network operations and you take the biggest step towards the growth of your business.