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Showing posts with label 3G. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 3G. Show all posts

Saturday, 7 October 2017

2G / 3G Switch Off: A Tale of Two Worlds

Source: Wikipedia

2G/3G switch off is always a topic of discussion in most conferences. While many companies are putting their eggs in 4G & 5G baskets, 2G & 3G is not going away anytime soon.

Based on my observations and many discussions that I have had over the past few months, I see a pattern emerging.

In most developed nations, 2G will be switched off (or some operators may leave a very thin layer) followed by re-farming of 3G. Operators will switch off 3G at earliest possible opportunity as most users would have moved to 4G. Users that would not have moved to 4G would be forced to move operators or upgrade their devices. This scenario is still probably 6 - 10 years out.



As we all know that 5G will need capacity (and coverage) layer in sub-6GHz, the 3G frequencies will either be re-farmed to 4G or 5G as 2G is already being re-farmed to 4G. Some operators may choose to re-balance the usage with some lower frequencies exchanged to be used for 5G (subject to enough bandwidth being available).


On the other hand, in the developing and less-developed nations, 3G will generally be switched off before 2G. The main reason being that there are still a lot of feature phone users that rely on 2G technologies. Most, if not all, 3G phones support 2G so the existing 3G users will be forced onto 2G. Those who can afford, will upgrade to newer smartphones while those who cant will have to grudgingly use 2G or change operators (not all operators in a country will do this at the same time).

Many operators in the developing countries believe that GSM will be around until 2030. While it may be difficult to predict that far in advance, I am inclined to believe this.

For anyone interested, here is a document listing 2G/3G switch off dates that have been publicly announced by the operators.



Let me know what you think.

Further reading:

Monday, 1 May 2017

Variety of 3GPP IoT technologies and Market Status - May 2017



I have seen many people wondering if so many different types of IoT technologies are needed, 3GPP or otherwise. The story behind that is that for many years 3GPP did not focus too much on creating an IoT variant of the standards. Their hope was that users will make use of LTE Cat 1 for IoT and then later on they created LTE Cat 0 (see here and here).

The problem with this approach was that the market was ripe for a solution to a different types of IoT technologies that 3GPP could not satisfy. The table below is just an indication of the different types of technologies, but there are many others not listed in here.


The most popular IoT (or M2M) technology to date is the humble 2G GSM/GPRS. Couple of weeks back Vodafone announced that it has reached a milestone of 50 million IoT connections worldwide. They are also adding roughly 1 million new connections every month. The majority of these are GSM/GPRS.

Different operators have been assessing their strategy for IoT devices. Some operators have either switched off or are planning to switch off they 2G networks. Others have a long term plan for 2G networks and would rather switch off their 3G networks to refarm the spectrum to more efficient 4G. A small chunk of 2G on the other hand would be a good option for voice & existing IoT devices with small amount of data transfer.

In fact this is one of the reasons that in Release-13 GSM is being enhanced for IoT. This new version is known as Extended Coverage – GSM – Internet of Things (EC-GSM-IoT ). According to GSMA, "It is based on eGPRS and designed as a high capacity, long range, low energy and low complexity cellular system for IoT communications. The optimisations made in EC-GSM-IoT that need to be made to existing GSM networks can be made as a software upgrade, ensuring coverage and accelerated time to-market. Battery life of up to 10 years can be supported for a wide range use cases."

The most popular of the non-3GPP IoT technologies are Sigfox and LoRa. Both these technologies have gained significant ground and many backers in the market. This, along with the gap in the market and the need for low power IoT technologies that transfer just a little amount of data and has a long battery life motivated 3GPP to create new IoT technologies that were standardised as part of Rel-13 and are being further enhanced in Rel-14. A summary of these technologies can be seen below


If you look at the first picture on the top (modified from Qualcomm's original here), you will see that these different IoT technologies, 3GPP or otherwise address different needs. No wonder many operators are using the unlicensed LPWA IoT technologies as a starting point, hoping to complement them by 3GPP technologies when ready.

Finally, looks like there is a difference in understanding of standards between Ericsson and Huawei and as a result their implementation is incompatible. Hopefully this will be sorted out soon.


Market Status:

Telefonica has publicly said that Sigfox is the best way forward for the time being. No news about any 3GPP IoT technologies.

Orange has rolled out LoRa network but has said that when NB-IoT is ready, they will switch the customers on to that.

KPN deployed LoRa throughout the Netherlands thereby making it the first country across the world with complete coverage. Haven't ruled out NB-IoT when available.

SK Telecom completed nationwide LoRa IoT network deployment in South Korea last year. It sees LTE-M and LoRa as Its 'Two Main IoT Pillars'.

Deutsche Telekom has rolled out NarrowBand-IoT (NB-IoT) Network across eight countries in Europe (Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Croatia)

Vodafone is fully committed to NB-IoT. Their network is already operational in Spain and will be launching in Ireland and Netherlands later on this year.

Telecom Italia is in process of launching NB-IoT. Water meters in Turin are already sending their readings using NB-IoT.

China Telecom, in conjunction with Shenzhen Water and Huawei launched 'World's First' Commercial NB-IoT-based Smart Water Project on World Water Day.

SoftBank is deploying LTE-M (Cat-M1) and NB-IoT networks nationwide, powered by Ericsson.

Orange Belgium plans to roll-out nationwide NB-IoT & LTE-M IoT Networks in 2017

China Mobile is committed to 3GPP based IoT technologies. It has conducted outdoor trials of NB-IoT with Huawei and ZTE and is also trialing LTE-M with Ericsson and Qualcomm.

Verizon has launched Industry’s first LTE-M Nationwide IoT Network.

AT&T will be launching LTE-M network later on this year in US as well as Mexico.

Sprint said it plans to deploy LTE Cat 1 technology in support of the Internet of Things (IoT) across its network by the end of July.

Further reading: