The 3G network sunset and its implication for IoT

Originally posted on RCR Wireless on April 10, 2019

5G has officially arrived, and as the new comes in, the old goes out – and that’s as true for networks as for anything else. The 3G network sunset is the turning off of those networks, as mobile network operators shift spectrum, the lifeblood of cellular, to 4G LTE and 5G. Why are operators making this change? So that they can re-use their 3G spectrum holdings to add more capacity on their LTE networks as well as to expand their 5G networks. That means challenges ahead for internet of things devices which rely on 3G connectivity.

There are more than 80 million existing 3G devices using current networks in North America alone, most of which are IoT devices operating on national carriers’ networks. These devices serve a wide variety of purposes, from home security systems to in-vehicle telematics units to emergency call boxes and many others, according to Ken Bednasz, vice president of application engineering for Telit. All of those devices will have to transition to 4G connectivity in order to continue operating – and the timeline for the 3G sunset means that transition planning and execution is urgent. Verizon has said publicly that it plans to retire its CDMA network at the end of this year, and the other operators are expected to follow suit over the next two to three years.

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