AT&Ts decision to shut down its 2G GSM GPRS network by Jan. 1, 2017 means the M2M industry will have to act fast and switch to an alternative. Experts estimate that 10 to 12 million existing 2G GSM M2M devices will be affected by the AT&T shutdown.
The GSM sunset is a major issue for the M2M industry because such large numbers of 2G GSM/GPRS devices have been deployed. Assuming 200 working days a year, the M2M industry must replace more than 17,000 devices per day for the next three years, starting immediately if anyone still has not done so.
To accomplish this, companies using AT&T for 2G GSM M2M service must rapidly develop and execute comprehensive replacement plans, including new products from suppliers, detailed schedules, customer notifications, installer training as needed, recall plans, and more.
What are the options?
Aeris Communicationsis focused on the best solution for each customer, not specific wireless technologies. Aeris supports the following four possibilities:
- Change service to another 2G GSM carrier using the same 2G GSM device
- Replace the 2G GSM device with a 3G HSPA device
- Replace the 2G GSM device with a 2G CDMA device
- Replace the 2G GSM device with a 4G LTE device.
- Today, we will outline the first two options and cover the others in a follow-up blog.
Change 2G GSM service provider
It may be possible to move 2G GSM service from AT&T to another carrier by swapping the SIM inside the devices. This is the quickest option of the four and will require logistical planning to schedule the swapthis could also require a truck roll for fixed location devices. This is a good option for companies that need to extend their 2G GSM deployments for a few more years before implementing another option.
It is important to note, however, that the other carriers in the U.S. will also remove 2G GSM services eventually. Thus, this option can help alleviate the immediate issue, but will still necessitate a change in your technology within a few more years after the AT&T sunset deadline.
In almost all cases, Aeris GSM SIMs can be swapped in to replace any AT&T SIM by simply reprogramming the APN and exchanging the SIM.
Replace with 3G HSPA device
Device suppliers are making new 3G HSPA devices. However, the HSPA coverage footprint is smaller than GPRS today and, in time, the HSPA service in many markets will also be swapped for LTE. Thus, there is likely to be an HSPA Sunset in about seven to eight yearsperhaps a bit longer if sufficient wireless spectrum is made available for 4G LTE to avoid impacting HSPA deployments. This sunset may have a larger impact, since the number of deployed units will be much higher.
Furthermore, in some markets whereonly2G GSM/GPRS is currently operational, a new 3G HSPA device would operate in 2G mode for now (using backward compatibility). But be aware! These devices could shutdown unexpectedly in January 2017 if the AT&T 2G service is replaced with 4G LTE service only, i.e., without 3G HSPA service. This is most likely to occur in markets where AT&T does not have enough spectrum today to deploy both 4G LTEand3G HSPA.
In the next installment of our series, well address two more options: replacing the 2G GSM device with a 2G CDMA device, and replacing the 2G GSM device with a 4G LTE device.
Before you make a decision, be sure to study the full range of issues and fully acquaint yourself with all your options. For an in-depth discussion of the issue and your options, read Aeris Communications white paper, AT&Ts 2G GSM Sunset.