2G Sunset Solutions: Choosing 3G vs. LTE for IoT Applications

Norman Miglietta



For more than a decade, popular opinion suggested that almost any machine-to-machine connectivity need could be addressed with 2G technologies. However, as organizations using M2M technology now require richer, more robust, more evolved applications, greater bandwidth is also required. As technology continues to develop, the better options become the norm. For a good example of this, look at the mobile phone market: smartphones are becoming ever more common and flip phones have become a rarity. In a similar way, what we thought could be accomplished with 2G connectivity has become less adequate by the day. LTE is on the horizon of becoming the new norm in the wake of the 2G Sunset.

What is the 2G Sunset, Exactly? 

2G networks are slowly being shut down, and most, if not all, of these networks will be completely disconnected by the end of 2017. In fact, the majority of them have already started to “sunset” or shut down. So, even if you have simple applications that can run adequately on 2G, they won’t run if the network isn’t there anymore – after all, a train doesn’t move if there aren’t tracks.

Should I Upgrade to 3G for Internet of Things Applications Instead?

You could, but it would only be a temporary patch, so to speak. Many in the industry predict that 3G networks will likely have a full sunset of their own by 2020, meaning that all 3G networks could be gone by the start of the next decade. So, in a few years, you’ll have to upgrade yet again. However, if you transition straight from 2G to LTE for your IoT application, you could avoid having to make another switch for the 3G sunset. Not to mention that most carriers are now expanding their LTE footprint. For example, AT&T’s LTE coverage is greater than its 2G and 3G footprints combined, and Verizon is starting to do away with 3G completely. As a result, the availability of 3G networks for IoT apps is already starting to shrink.

What about the Cost of Upgrading to LTE?

The cost of the initial investment involved in upgrading to LTE is a valid concern for M2M application providers. However, LTE has already been standardized and adopted by more than 650 carriers around the world. As a result, the costs of upgrading to and using LTE bandwidth are being driven down, making it more accessible (and affordable) to more application providers.


What Guarantee Do We Have That, After Investing a Great Deal of Time and Resources into Adopting LTE, It won’t Quickly Be Replaced by More Advanced Technology?

We can assume that, eventually, LTE will outlive its usefulness, but it’s a pretty safe bet that that won’t happen anytime soon. In fact, we can reliably forecast that LTE will be the standard-bearer for at least the next 15 years. So, you could incur the costs of choosing 3G now and then have to invest again in a few years when you switch to LTE, or you can switch to LTE now and stick with it for at least a decade.

But What if My Applications Are Really Not Using That Much Bandwidth?

The fact of the matter is that by 2020 and beyond, solutions will have to be built around LTE, whether it’s a traditional, low-bandwidth application – like a fleet tracking application – or something that requires higher bandwidth, such as a video security application. Rich applications will certainly do best on LTE, but, frankly, you’re going to need LTE for the less data-hungry applications, too.

Plus, LTE is a very broad structural set of standards; what we see today is only the first step. There are multiple networks within the LTE standard, both at a device level and at a network technology level, that are designed to scale upwards to much higher bandwidth applications. There are also developments being made to the LTE spectrum, such as Cat-0 and Cat-1 technologies, designed specifically to “replace” 2G and cater to those companies who don’t require the bandwidth and speeds associated with 4G LTE for their IoT applications.

The Bottom Line on Choosing LTE

The fact of the matter is if you don’t have an LTE plan soon, you won’t have a competitive business in the coming years. If you intend to run an IoT-enabled business five years from now, it’s time to make the jump to LTE for IoT apps. However, you don’t have to be alone in this endeavor. When you partner with KORE Wireless, we can help you choose and connect to the LTE options that work best for your applications as part of our 2G sunset solutions. You can learn more about your organization’s LTE for IoT application options with this whitepaper, or contact us for more information on how you can connect your applications to the scalable, customizable connectivity solutions from KORE.

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