4 Steps to Prepare Your Business for the 3G Sunset

July 8, 2021

Businesses and corporations worldwide use 3G for industry-specific applications. 3G has been driving the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) from CCTV camera data transmission to remote equipment communication.

U.S. and European operators plan to sunset 3G networks, freeing bandwidth for faster 4G and 5G signals. The process has begun in the U.S.

Most U.S. operators launched commercial 5G broadband services over the last two years. It’s estimated most U.S. cellular traffic is carried over LTE — the heavy lifter between 3G and 5G.

For them, it’s a question of balancing the needs of 3G users against being a pacesetter with new technologies. Millions of U.S. IoT connections rely on 3G, such as fleet telematics and home and commercial alarm systems.

3G is becoming a niche connection, serving a shrinking market in regions or on devices that don’t support the newer standards.

In addition to freeing up licensed spectrum, 3G sunsets enable telcos to market new packages and services. These changes pose risks to businesses that have invested in cellular-connected systems depending on 3G.

What Should You Do If Your Business Will Be Affected by the 3G Shutdown?

1. Know When 3G Networks Will Shut Down

All U.S. operators have announced a shutdown date for 3G coverage. Most are firm dates, but some have provided estimates.

These estimates are contingent on mission-critical deployment migration (e.g., government fleets and emergency services). It’s critical to begin preparations as soon as possible.

Here are some dates to know:

  • Verizonstopped activating 3G on new devices in July 2018. It will decommission the network on 31 December 2022.
  • AT&T already switched off their 2G connection and ceased certifying new 3G devices in 2018. It plans to discontinue its 3G network on 22 February 2022 (22-2-22).
  • T-Mobile plans to discontinue its 3G network on 1 October 2021 and its 2G network on 31 December 2022.
  • Telstra in Australia has stated they will decommission 3G coverage in 2024.

Keeping track of dates enables you to determine urgency and make economically desirable choices.

Waiting until the last minute to solve these challenges costs more.

2. Plan Your 3G Migration

Knowing these three things will place you in a solid position to strategize your business’s 3G migration:

  • Inventory
  • Timescale
  • Business plan

Consult your wireless carrier representative to get a clear answer of what you can expect from your existing setup.

Officials at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency were caught off guard when AT&T switched off the 2G network. The agency was upgrading its real-time customer information system. They paid the price with two weeks of disruption.

It’s crucial to roll out your new deployment before the 3G shutdown to iron out problems that arise while your business has 3G fallback.

For global deployments crossing operator borders, factor in shutdown timing differences between regions and providers.

3. Check Your Inventory

Not every decision-maker knows which connections their devices use or have fallback capabilities to 2G. 2G fallback helps mitigate upgrading devices where 2G remains operational.

Some devices powered by current generation multimode modules may be able to switch to LTE or 5G. These devices would only need a change of wireless plan rather than a complete hardware refit.

2G and 3G remain prevalent in Europe and Latin America. Well-maintained hardware needn’t be a write-off if you can redeploy them from North America or most of Asia to these markets.

4. Future-Proof Your Investment

Nothing lasts forever, as the 3G sunset will show those who’ve used the same burner handset for over a decade.

A 4G sunset will follow the impending shutdown, even if it’s many years away. Speak with your provider and shop around. The economy of this upgrade involves more than two tech generations.

Consider whether to create your post-3G hardware or to buy it. You’ll want long-range road maps from your wireless and hardware providers to consider obsolescence.

For devices more focused on IoT than broadband, NB-IoT or LTE-M may be more durable. These standards evolve seamlessly from 4G to 5G NSA.

Research your next step early. Optimize this upgrade as an investment and not a costly last-minute fix.

Looking Forward

On the bright side, 5G offers a more significant leap.

4G was a game-changer, normalizing video streaming with faster connection and shorter latency times. 5G promises to be up to 20 times faster by the evolutionary cycle’s end.

Wireless sunsets may involve hard work and investment in the short run. Over time, they pay off in increased functionality and opportunities with each technical sunrise.

Speak with our IoT experts to get started on your migration today and request an IoT connectivity starter kit.

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published on 14 June 2019 and has since been updated.