2G / 3G Sunset: Managing a real life case study

2G / 3G sunset

2G / 3G Sunset

As telecom operators are freeing up spectrum resources to introduce 5G, certain 2G or 3G networks are planned to be switched off. This is likely to have severe impacts on customers who wish to continue benefiting from existing M2M (Machine To Machine) services based on those technologies. This article shares some ideas to what service providers have to take into consideration when managing a 2G/3G Sunset situation and extending an Internet of Things service.

Interface regularly with telecom operators and start early

Every European country has its own migration strategy. There may also be different agendas within a same telecom operator. The telecom operator B2C and B2B/M2M/IoT business units have different priorities. There are several technical, business (and sometimes political) considerations before deciding to switch off a network. Some operators may favor a 3G Sunset to better guarantee voice services over a large territory (2G base stations can be installed further apart). Should a 2G network be planned for a shutdown, with devices communicating on 2G modems, there are no software upgrade options to manage the sunset. The M2M/IoT service provider has to finance the acquisition of new hardware and manage an important installation campaign. When there is a 3G Sunset, the situation can be easier, as recent 3G modems generally have 2G capacity.

Optimize the existing technology solutions

SilentSoft has been operating an M2M (Machine To Machine) service in Europe since 2000. SMS and GPRS services have been used very early with a satisfactory quality of service at reasonable prices. The introduction of dual mode modems allows to install 3G/2G solutions. In case of lack of network in a domestic market, SilentSoft uses Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) to allow national roaming. For non-Swiss territories, SilentSoft uses a Swiss telecom operator SIM card to allow roaming on the best available network.

Involving the customer

The SilentSoft Service License Agreement (SLA) focuses on delivering a daily service. Nevertheless, the M2M/IoT service provider cannot guarantee the continuous operation of the public network managed by a third party telecom operator. SilentSoft is managing a complex operational challenge since 2017. The joint announcements of Swiss telecom operators ceasing to guarantee quality of service on 2G networks beyond 2020, obliges SilentSoft to contact more than 800 customers and manage close to 15’000 2G subscriptions. SilentSoft has chosen to share the upfront cost burden with the customer in exchange of a promotional offer over the replacement subscriptions. The complete process to change the park will take 4 years.

Selecting the appropriate replacement technology

There are 3 considerations to take into account: (1) network coverage, (2) cost, and (3) quality of service.

1. SilentSoft operates an Internet Of Tanks service: StockView. The transmitting device is often in a “deep indoor” coverage situation. This means that the communicating device can be located underground or in a basement. SilentSoft has been measuring network coverage with different technologies upon every installation for the past two years. The first findings show that there is a difference to take into account between the signal strength indicated by the network detector and the signal strength received in the payload of the communicating device. Results differ between different technology providers. When performing coverage tests for Low Power Networks (like LoRa for example) in Switzerland, we have noticed that there is a better coverage in urban areas vs. rural ones. This can be due to the fact that telecom operators wish to maximize smart city use cases.

2. After receiving quotes from different telecom operators and modem/sensor providers for two years, it appears that there are greater gains in battery costs vs. telecommunication subscriptions costs. The Low Power technology allows to have smaller batteries with similar lifespans than existing M2M solutions (more than 5 years pending network and weather conditions).

3. For quality of service there are extra considerations to take into account: (i) is the sensor connected to a unit that records the readings – we call a Logger – or does it send the last reading pending the planned transmission schedule, (ii) is there a fall back strategy should there be a temporary lack of network – SilentSoft interprets SMS messages when there is no GPRS connection, and (iii) is there need to review network access strategies (signal strength output) when operating a service on license free networks (LoRa and Sigfox for example).

The technology selection process is dependent on 5G introduction strategies of each telecom operator (these may differ between different operators in a same European country). Low Power networks (NB-IoT, CAT M, LoRa, Sigfox) will gradually become the replacements for 2G and 3G beyond 2025. The variety of options and technology transition calendars per European country have led SilentSoft to integrate solutions from third party technology providers. This allows us to deliver several telecommunications access combinations in order to deliver the optimum quality of Service in any given European country. SilentSoft is currently integrating LoRa devices on top of the existing 3G/2G solutions. The integration of NB-IoT and Sigfox sensors will start in 2020.

Current understanding of the European landscape for 2G/3G Sunset

This is our current understanding of the 2G/3G Sunset timeline in Europe:

Country Operator 2G/3G sunset date*
Norway Telia Norge AS Final 3G shutdown 2021, phasing out starts in 2019
Norway Telenor Norge AS 2G shutdown 2025, 3G shutdown 2020
Sweden Three 3G shutdown 2020
Sweden Telenor Sverige AB 3G shutdown 2020
Sweden Tele2 AB 3G shutdown 2025
Sweden Telia Company AB 3G shutdown 2025
Denmark Three 3G shutdown 2020
Netherlands KPN B.V. 3G shutdown Jan 2022
Germany Vodafone GmbH 2G shutdown 2025, 3G shutdown 2020
Austria Three 3G shutdown 2020
Liechtenstein Telecom Liechtenstein AG 2G shutdown Jan 2021
Switzerland Swisscom Ltd 2G shutdown 31.12.2020
Switzerland Sunrise Communications AG 2G shutdown 31.12.2021
Switzerland Salt 2G shutdown 31.12.2020
United Kingdom EE Limited 3G shutdown 2022
United Kingdom Three 3G shutdown 2020
United Kingdom BT 3G shutdown 2021
Ireland Three 3G shutdown 2020
Italy Vodafone Italia S.p.A 2G shutdown 2025, 3G shutdown 2020
Italy Three 3G shutdown 2020

*The information is not always official and there may be some mistakes. We appreciate if the reader can correct us with any official links and statements to be sent at: info@silentsoft.com