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2G and 3G Sunset: What It Means for IoT Connectivity

Sept. 15, 2022
As 5G continues to roll out, the end of 2G/3G is drawing near. When it does, it will have an impact on IoT deployments using those technologies. Here we explore what enterprises need to know about the sunsetting of 2G/3G networks and how best to prepare.

With 4G and 5G being steadily deployed globally, the process of retiring 2G and 3G networks is well underway in many countries and regions. The timing for the network shutdowns varies for each country and operator and is either decided by the local regulator, looking to free up valuable spectrum resources or by the mobile network operator, when there is no longer enough legacy traffic to justify the continued operation.

2G networks typically have been in commercial operation for more than three decades and have offered an unparalleled platform for deploying national and international high-quality IoT solutions. Many IoT solutions have long lifecycles—often a decade or more—which means there are still large volumes of devices that are 2G-only. Therefore, action needs to be taken to ensure the continued operation of IoT applications as 2G and 3G networks are being sunset.

Decommissioning of 2G and 3G has been initiated and/or completed in some parts of the world, for example, in the US and Australia. Other locations have widely differing sunset dates, such as the end of 2025 for most of Europe. In the longer term, 2G and 3G networks will eventually be decommissioned everywhere so this is an issue that can’t be avoided.

The pace of 2G/3G sunset is highly fragmented geographically and is dependent upon individual market characteristics but increasing numbers of 2G and 3G sunset dates are being published. The number of shutdowns is set to increase.

GSMA Intelligence data predicts that more than 55 2G and 3G networks will be closed between 2021 and 2025 but the two technologies will not necessarily be retired at the same time and, in some markets, 2G is expected to continue in operation for a decade or more as specific services, such as mobile payments in Africa and vehicle emergency calling (eCall) in other markets, depend on 2G. In these scenarios, networks are likely to continue to operate for an extended period.

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