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M2M Industry Faces Call to Action with 2G GSM Sunset, Part 4: More Options for Your 2G Transition

With AT&Ts announced shutdown of its 2G GSM GPRS network by Jan. 1, 2017, we atAeris Communicationsare outlining options for M2M companies using AT&T to switch over to an alternative by the deadline.

Its estimated that 10 to 12 million 2G GSM M2M devices on AT&Ts network will have to be replaced.

What are the options?
Aeris is focused on the best solution for each customer, not specific wireless technologies. The customer, not our technology, is at the center of our solution and so we offer an array of options for M2M deployments of every size, including:

  • 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.

In our blog last week we outlined the first two options of changing service to another 2G GSM carrier using the same 2G GSM device, and replacing the 2G GSM device with a 3G HSPA device.

Today, well talk about the second two options: replacing the 2G GSM device with a 2G CDMA device and replacing the 2G GSM device with a 4G LTE device.

Replace with 2G CDMA
This is likely to be the best option for many M2M applications. It is important to recognize that the 2G CDMA service of the CDMA carriers is unaffected by the AT&T announcement. Indeed, CDMA carriers have committed to 10+ years of service longevity for 2G, and the 1xRTT coverage in the United States is excellentbetterthan 2G GPRS.

Some carriers are adding 2G CDMA services in new spectrumfor example, the Sprint Network Vision project adds 2G CDMA service into a section of their 800MHz spectrum originally used for iDEN services.

Given the lower cost of 1xRTT radios and the large number of deployed 1xRTT applications in many industries (notably automotive and trucking) supporting the technology, using 1xRTT for M2M applications makes sense.

In particular, many M2M applications simply do not need the high throughput and higher radio cost of 3G HSPA and 4G LTE technologiesthe proven 2G CDMA cellular service provides sufficiently good service for these applications. Going with 2G CDMA has many advantages including technology longevity; better coverage; lower radio price; larger installed base in most M2M vertical industries than 3G, etc.

Replace with 4G LTE
Deploying LTE devices is not yet viable for many M2M applicationstoday. The radio costs are very highgenerally 4 to 10 times more expensive than 2G GSM and 2G CDMA radios, and coverage is not yet sufficient for nationwide M2M deployments. Both will improve in time, but not at a pace that makes 4G LTE a viable replacement option todayjust when the need to replace 2G GSM is most urgent.

Most importantly, the spectrum fragmentation problem for LTE means that current production LTE radios are mostly single-bandi.e., dedicated for use on a single carrier and band in LTE mode. This is too restrictive, since these units can never be moved from one carrier to another for LTE service. However, multi-band LTE radiosarebeginning to emergeat a slightly higher costand this will eventually allow these radios to work on more than one carrier in LTE mode.

Finally, the top nationwide carriers have not yet worked on any significant LTE roaming agreementsthese also will take time to complete and deploy to achieve true service choice.

In the last installment of our series, well address considerations for making the best choice. 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 a complete list of alternatives to AT&Ts 2G GSM GPRS service, read Aeris Communications white paper, AT&Ts 2G GSM Sunset.

guide to at&t 2g gsm sunset