The twilight of 2G / 3G systems is a challenge for the M2M network.

5G is basically not another technology, but only a 4G modernization, so also modernizing modems to adapt to future network standards should not be too difficult or expensive.


While most consumers have long stopped using legacy 2G and 3G networks, companies with older M2M wireless standards must consider new IoT cellular solutions.

Today's machine-to-machine (M2M) wireless network, covering applications such as utility meters, asset location, vending machines, fuel pumps, security systems, and more, still relies heavily on conventional cellular modems. Communication via the mobile network has always been reliable, secure and ensures high quality of services. While modem-based solutions are typically relatively expensive, bulky, and power-consuming, real-time data and information are valuable enough to justify their high cost.

However, mobile networks are changing with their operators focusing on 4G (LTE) and 5G services. These newer cell technology standards use a higher frequency spectrum allocation (GHz) than the older networks (MHz). This is a major improvement, providing customers with faster and more responsive services, making it an ideal solution for the average smartphone user, and also offers a significant increase in wireless IoT performance.

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However, the change of the standard will cause problems with systems based on 2G and 3G modems. Licensed radio spectrum is valuable to network operators and must be used where business opportunities arise. As a result, operators are willing to retire legacy services or dedicate them to alternative uses. This is not a problem for consumers who buy new cell phones every twenty months or so and last saw a 3G set years ago. However, this is a serious problem for commercial operators who will no longer be able to use older modems.

To continue delivering valuable real-time data, M2M cellular connectivity urgently needs to be upgraded to the next generation of technology. While the change will be revolutionary, the benefits of newer technologies - smaller, less power consuming, more reliable modems, and a more reliable and secure communication link - will bring significant benefits in the future.

Disruptions during the revolution

There are many examples of the big hassle arising from the decline of 2G and 3G technology. For example, in 2017, about 70 percent of modems that track San Francisco buses and trains in real time suddenly disappeared from the system's map because AT&T shut down its 2G network. It took the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFTMA) several weeks to fix the problem through modernization, but the result was a new, more reliable system that will last a long time to come. Likewise, almost any industry can benefit from the transition to mobile IoT in the long run.

Transition to a new standard

The solution to the 2G / 3G extinction problem is the modernization of the entire existing M2M wireless cellular infrastructure and its migration to the NB-IoT or LTE-M cellular network operated by 4G networks. The challenge is to ensure that the necessary changes take place before the shutdown of 2G and 3G networks.

Fortunately, things have been made much easier thanks to the commercial availability of relatively inexpensive, small and energy-efficient IoT cellular modems. An example of such a device is the Nordic nRF9160 SiP, which makes LTE technology available and easy to use for a range of low power consumption cellular IoT projects. It supports both 4G and 5G applications and is one of the most compact, complete, and energy efficient cellular IoT solutions on the market.

The sacrifices now, the profits later

While the move from 2G and 3G to 4G is a serious undertaking, investment in mobile IoT solutions will bring many benefits. Products like nRF9160 are smaller, cheaper and use much less power than older modems. There are also benefits to cellular service providers; The mobile Internet of Things uses frequencies that are not used in consumer applications, allowing companies to make better use of their spectrum allocations.

Businesses moving to cellular IoT will no longer be faced with such a major upheaval for decades. 4G networks will coexist with 5G networks for at least the next decade. And 5G is basically not another technology, but only a 4G modernization, so also modernizing modems to adapt to future networks should not be too difficult or expensive.

This article is courtesy of Nordic Semiconductor

Author: Kristian Sæther

Source: & Arrow

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