As network traffic grows and technology evolves to keep pace, new networks like 3G and LTE are introduced. Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) must make difficult decisions to pave the way for these innovations, such as Tier 1 MNO AT&T’s decision to shut down their 2G network in North America by the end of 2016. Declining demand for lower bandwidth networks was weighed against the need to free up valuable spectrum for mobile broadband networks to provide faster and greater capacity for the growing number of 3G and 4G customers.

Most consumers and businesses have already moved beyond 2G and are now choosing Broadband Only Offers to get thier business running smoothly, but those who use Machine to Machine (M2M) services typically keep the same equipment in place for decades, unlike upgrading every year or two to the latest device like consumers do. The limited data transmission requirements of some M2M applications (i.e. remote monitoring and alarming) make 2G technology a cost-effective solution. A network shutdown will impact these businesses that use 2G networks for their M2M service as they now must transition their service to 3G or 4G.

Dealing with network shutdowns are not new to anyone involved with M2M, but if service providers, vendors and customers work together effectively they can set the stage for a smooth network transition. The goal is to ensure a good network experience and keep the upgrade as easy and cost-effective as possible.

Planning and communication
Large-scale network shutdowns, such as with 2G, are multi-year projects. MNOs plan these far in advance of the shutdown date. Details on what, where and how to get help for the transition are provided to those customers affected, well in advance of the end date. Customers should stay up to date with these communications and share with all teams involved to plan an effective migration together. This will safeguard against a situation of having the business interrupted by the device going offline due to the network being shut off.

Future proofing
Thankfully, the cost to upgrade devices is becoming more affordable with the declining costs of 3G devices. Service providers and vendors help customers make the best decision on how to future proof as they upgrade their 2G devices to 3G HSPA, 4G LTE or other next-gen protocols and try and avoid other end of life scenarios. They’ll consider the need for higher bandwidth, such as with more data and even video being transmitted, and look to optimize each installation by adjusting service plans or equipment installed.

Optimization and performance
Once the upgrades have been made, MNOs need to assure customers that the networks are up and running and performance is optimized for the unique demands of M2M. By profiling usage patterns of devices and monitoring network performance, MNOs will be able to highlight any changes that need to be made to deliver a market-leading customer experience.

Whatever your role in M2M, be prepared for the latest network shutdown of 2G. If this is the first network shutdown you’ve been involved with, know that with the pace of innovation, it certainly won’t be the last one, as the M2M market continues to grow and evolve quickly. Network shutdowns are just one of the challenges the growth of M2M and IoT has created for MNOs. Check out this infographic on preparing mobile networks for IoT and M2M.

With the large number of devices along with new traffic patterns and differing expectations with regards to quality of service (QoS) from IoT and M2M customers, MNOs need to make a change from their traditional approach to network engineering and operations and adjust the planning and optimizing of their networks. TEOCO understands these unique challenges and helps MNOs adapt to the M2M and IoT market with:

  • Device management: Device certification in the lab and thorough field testing
  • Enhanced capacity planning: Sophisticated planning tools to ensure quality of service (QoS)
  • Dynamic RAN optimization: Real time device-focused optimization
  • Service assurance and customer experience management (CEM): Profile and device type monitoring
  • Spectrum re-farming: Planning and consideration for device lifespan while maximizing ROI
  • A comprehensive view of network impact, usage behaviors and mechanisms: Determine equitable revenue sharing models and reconcile financial settlement with 3rd party providers